Egypt revamped cabinet to be sworn in

July 18, 2011 11:52 am

, CAIRO, Jul 18 – Egypt’s new cabinet was to be sworn in on Monday as part of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s efforts to deflect anger over the pace of reform, but protesters in Cairo said the shakeup was not enough.

Sharaf, who heads a caretaker government after a revolt toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak in February, had hoped the sweeping shuffle would persuade the protesters to end a 10-day-old sit-in at Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square.

But the protesters said that new cabinet retained ministers they wanted sacked, including Justice Minister Abdel Aziz al-Gindi, whom they accuse of delaying trials for former regime officials, including Mubarak.

Mubarak, who was forced to resign as president in February after a nationwide revolt, was said by his lawyer on Sunday to have slipped into a coma in a Red Sea resort hospital where he has been under arrest since April.

But hospital officials in Sharm el-Sheikh denied the 83-year-old ousted strongman, who is receiving treatment for heart condition, was in a coma. Mubarak and his two sons face murder and corruption charges and their trial is scheduled for August 3..

Fourteen new ministers and a deputy premier are expected to appear before Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, who heads the ruling military, for a swearing in ceremony later Monday.

The new cabinet will include former World Bank official Mohammed Kamel Amr as foreign minister and veteran economist Hazem Beblawi, who will serve as finance minister as well as deputy premier for economic affairs.

The shakeup also removed the controversial and powerful antiquities minister Zahi Hawass, who was credited abroad with reviving interest in Egyptian antiquity sites but criticised at home for his close ties with the Mubaraks.

Sharaf also appointed a leading member of the liberal Wafd Party, Ali al-Silmi as his second deputy on political affairs.

Thirteen ministers from the previous cabinet, appointed in March after mass protests to replace Mubarak’s last government, retained their posts, including Interior Minister Mansur Essawy, whose resignation the protesters had demanded.

“We want a change of all the government,” said Sharif Ali, a member of the April 6 youth group that helped organise the 18-day revolt that ended Mubarak’s three-decade rule.

Ali, who said he and other protesters in Tahrir Square had no intention of leaving, insisted that other demands, such as the speedy trials of Mubarak and police officers implicated in protester killings during the revolt had yet to be met.

While some of the new ministers were known to activists, with some said to have joined protesters in Tahrir during the revolt, others had little recognition before their appointment.

“Nobody knows some of these names,” said another activist, Bola Abdu.

The sit-in at the square, the epicentre of the revolt that overthrew Mubarak, began after tens of thousands of people held a demonstration on July 8 calling for speedier reforms.

The protesters also demand a coherent transition to civilian rule, which the military has promised after parliamentary and presidential elections and an end to military trials of civilians.

But the protesters in Tahrir Square also risk the enmity of other Egyptians who want the square vacated, accusing the demonstrators of slowing down the country’s recovery.

Fundamentalist Islamist groups have called for a large demonstration on Friday to demand “stability,” Egyptian newspapers reported.

Tensions have also grown between the military, initially hailed for not siding with Mubarak, and activists, who heckled a general off the stage in Tahrir Square last week.

Egypt has seen a sharp decline in tourism and increased unemployment since the revolt, and investors remain jittery over sporadic and at times deadly unrest in the Arab world’s most populous country.


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