In an interview with three state-run newspapers published Tuesday, the Egyptian leader said officials had waited too long to act, and that piecemeal measures taken over the years were no longer tenable. His comments offered some of the strongest indications yet that Egypt was moving to free its exchange rate or devalue its pound.

"The size of the challenges is beyond imagination, and the responsibility for coping with them doesn't fall solely on my shoulders but is a responsibility shared by Egyptians as a whole," El-Sisi told state-run Al-Ahram. "The future of the nation is at stake."

The impoverished country of more than 90 million faces tough economic measures if it is to secure a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan that could unlock billions of dollars more in aid. An initial agreement with the IMF, meant to restore the confidence of foreign investors and provide a desperately needed infusion of dollars, was reached earlier this month.