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Kerry meets Egyptian leaders in effort to smooth relations

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Egypt for a brief visit to help mend diplomatic fences between the two countries. The trial of former President Mohammed Morsi is set to begin on Monday.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry was only scheduled for a brief visit to Cairo on Sunday, a day before the expected beginning of former President Mohammed Morsi's trial.

Kerry and his Egyptian counterpart promised they would work to ease tensions that have arisen between Washington and Cairo after the overthrow of Morsi.

Both the US and Egypt aimed to use the meeting to partially repair relations that have been damaged.

A crackdown by the interim government on Muslim Brotherhood protesters has strained relations with the US.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference that was also attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, Kerry urged the country's interim leaders to adhere to the rule of law.

"The United States believes that the US-Egypt partnership is going to be strongest when Egypt is represented by an inclusive, democratically-elected, civilian government based on rule of law, fundamental freedoms, and an open and competitive economy," Kerry said.

"We support you in this tremendous transition you are undergoing," said Kerry, who was visiting for the first time since Morsi was toppled. "We know it’s difficult. We want to help. We’re prepared to do so."

Plea on emergency powers

Diplomatic sources said Obama had urged the country's interim leaders not to extend a state of emergency that is scheduled to end on November 14.

"He said that the crackdown that was underway was inappropriate and inclusivity required that there be an outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood and others," the US official added.

Kerry also spoke to interim President Adly Mansour, who told the Secretary of State he had used the powers afforded under the state of emergency only sparingly.

The state of emergency was imposed in mid-August, more than a month after the overthrow of Morsi on July 3. Morsi now faces trial on charges of inciting murder.

Deliveries withheld

The Obama administration announced at the beginning of October that - in response to the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood - it would withhold deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft and missiles, as well as financial aid.

Signs of tension due to the visit were evident, with a higher level of secrecy surrounding Kerry's trip to the Egyptian capital than would be normal on the part of Washington. The US Secretary of State spent much of his six hours on the ground in Cairo at a hotel close to the airport in an apparent attempt to avoid the likelihood of protests.

Kerry did, however, end the visit with meetings at the presidential palace and defense ministry before flying on to Saudi Arabia, where he landed on Sunday evening.

The visit came at the beginning of Kerry's 10-day tour of the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. Other scheduled stops include Poland, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Morocco.

rc/hc (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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