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Jihadist-targeted Egypt courts foreign investors

Update: March, 13/2015 - 09:00

SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt — Egypt is hosting from today a three-day conference aimed at wooing foreign investors, while also shoring up global support for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in his fight against jihadists targeting the country.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini will join hundreds of others at the gathering in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, with all eyes on Sisi, who has positioned himself as a frontline ally in the regional fight against Islamist militants.

The meeting aims to attract investment into the dilapidated economy, as the government struggles to stamp out an insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula and small-scale bomb attacks in Cairo that have targeted not only police but also foreign companies.

Conference consultant Richard Attias said that "more than 30 projects will be unveiled, which can attract billions of dollars of investment". General Electric, Unilever, British Petroleum, ENI and HSBC are among companies and banks that will attend.

Presidential guards and hundreds of policemen have been deployed across Sharm el-Sheikh, located in the generally secure south of the Sinai, with new checkpoints set up to thwart any attempt at a militant attack.

"If Egypt is stable – a country of 90 million people – this will represent the strongest bedrock of stability in this region," Sisi, who was elected after ousting Islamist Mohamed Morsi in 2013, told Fox News on Monday.

As one Western diplomat put it: "For Egypt this is not an economic event, but rather a political one."

Call for unified anti-IS force

Washington, which initially shunned Sisi over his deadly repression of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, has been forced to acknowledge that it cannot isolate the biggest military force in the Arab world while the Islamic State group pushes to extend its influence in the region.

Sisi has called for a joint Arab force to fight IS, which has seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, and is trying to extend its influence in Libya, which neighbours Egypt.

Washington said Kerry would meet Sisi during the conference to discuss the anti-IS campaign. — AFP

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