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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Tel Aviv after ending two days of talks with Egypt's quarrelling civilian and military leaders. She offered them U.S. assistance for the struggling Egyptian economy without publicly taking sides in their ongoing power struggle.
A U.S. State Department official said Clinton discussed U.S. aid proposals at a meeting in Cairo Sunday with Egyptian military chief Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. The official said Tantawi told Clinton that reviving the Egyptian economy is a priority for his country. Clinton revealed details of the U.S. aid pledge on Saturday, when she held talks with Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who took office last month.
VOA correspondent Scott Stearns, who is traveling with Clinton, said debt relief is a major part of the U.S. package.
"In both her talks with President Morsi and Field Marshal Tantawi, she discussed the U.S. ability to help the Egyptian economy. The political instability here in Egypt has really hurt economic growth and tourism revenue. So U.S. President Barack Obama is proposing a package of debt relief that could go as high as $1 billion. Tantawi said that's really the chief priority now; that's what Egyptians need - a better economy," he said.
Other U.S. aid proposals include a $60 million fund for Egypt's small- and medium-sized businesses and $250 million in private-sector loan guarantees. Stearns said Egypt will have to negotiate the terms of the broader debt relief package with the United States, but that process cannot begin until Mr. Morsi forms a Cabinet.
The U.S. State Department official said Clinton also urged Tantawi to protect the rights of all Egyptians, including women and minorities, as military leaders and President Morsi try to resolve disputes about the country's political transition.
A Tantawi-led military council transferred the leadership of the country to Mr. Morsi after he won the country's first free presidential election in a military supervised vote. But days before Mr. Morsi's inauguration, the military council stripped the presidency of much of its power and disbanded an elected lower house of parliament dominated by his Islamist allies. Mr. Morsi ordered the assembly to reconvene in defiance of the military.
The power struggle has left the United States in a delicate position with Egypt, a longtime ally ruled for decades by military figures who suppressed Islamist opposition movements.
Speaking Saturday, Clinton urged the Egyptian military to return to a "purely national security role." But she also said it is up to the Egyptian people, not the United States, to determine their democratic development through dialogue and compromise.
After Sunday's meeting, Tantawi said the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces "respects" the country's legislative and executive authorities. But speaking in Ismaila, he also warned that the military will not allow any group to undermine its role of protecting Egypt.
Clinton later visited the U.S. embassy in Cairo and told diplomatic staff that Egypt must do more to become a true democracy.
"Elections are just the beginning. It's not the end of anything. Now a government must be formed, a government that will respect the rights of all Egyptians: men and women, Muslims and Christians, wherever they live in the country. We respect the right of Egyptians to build their country, but we believe strongly that universal rights must be protected. All people deserve dignity. All people deserve their freedom," she said.
Clinton was due to depart for Israel late Sunday.