Calm on Streets as Egypt Assembles a Cabinet

Sunday, 14 Jul 2013 09:53 AM

 

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CAIRO — Egypt's interim prime minister was assembling his cabinet on Sunday to lead the country under an army-backed "road map" to restore civil rule, with peace having returned to the streets after the military removed President Mohammed Morsi.

Hazem el-Beblawi, a 76-year-old liberal economist appointed interim prime minister last week, is tapping technocrats and liberals for a government to run the country under a temporary constitution until parliamentary elections in about six months.

A former ambassador to the United States, Nabil Fahmy, accepted the post of foreign minister, a sign of the importance the government places in its relationship with the superpower that provides $1.3 billion a year in military aid.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a former senior UN diplomat, was sworn in as vice president, a job he was offered last week.

The Obama Administration is sending its No. 2 diplomat, Deputy Secretary Bill Burns, to Cairo this week to meet with the interim government. It's the first dispatch of a U.S. diplomat since Morsi's ouster.

Also on Sunday, Egypt's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday no group would be barred from participating in politics. In a speech, Sisi also defended the army's decision to remove Morsi from power, saying the deposed president had lost legitimacy because of mass demonstrations against him.

“Every political force without exception and without exclusion must realize that an opportunity is available for everyone in political life and no ideological movement is prevented from participating."
 
Even so, Egypt’s public prosecutor on Sunday ordered the assets of 14 Muslim Brotherhood leaders frozen, judicial sources told Reuters news service.

Government sources have told Reuters that el-Beblawi will offer the finance ministry to Hany Kadri, formerly the official who oversaw Egypt's negotiations for a rescue with the International Monetary Fund, which stalled under Morsi.

Notably, Kadri is a member of the Coptic Christian minority, 10 percent of the population, which complained of being marginalized under Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi's cabinet had only one Christian, as minister of scientific research.

"It is so good that finally we are being recognized as Egyptian citizens and given better representation in the government," said Joseph Shukry, a 31-year-old Copt in Cairo.

"But we need to have better security around our churches, as there is no protection at all and we are so worried about Islamists' attacks on our holy places."

Sunday marks a week without street violence after clashes between the army, Morsi supporters and opponents killed more than 90 people in the days after his overthrow.

Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, has been held incommunicado at an undisclosed location since the army removed him from power after millions took to the streets to march against him.

The authorities have not charged him with a crime but said on Saturday they were investigating complaints against him over spying, inciting violence and wrecking the economy.

Charges of inciting violence have already been issued against many of the Brotherhood's top figures, although in most cases police have not followed through with arrests. The Brotherhood says the criminal charges are part of a crackdown against it and the authorities are to blame for the violence.

Thousands of Morsi's followers have maintained a vigil in a square near a northeast Cairo mosque vowing not to leave until he is restored, a hope that now seems in vain. Tens of thousands marched on Friday, but the demonstrations ended peacefully.

"We feel in the last few days there's more stability, more chance for an economic improvement because there hasn't been a lot of violence," said Ahmed Hilmi, 17, as he manned an open air stall selling juice for people to take home to break their Ramadan fasts.

"Those who are still protesting are a small minority, but as a nation I think we're doing better and will improve."

The Brotherhood has called for more marches on Monday. Morsi's opponents have also called for demonstrations, although their protests are attracting far fewer people now that they have achieved their aim of bringing him down.

Beblawi's challenge is setting up a government that will appear inclusive without Islamists. The Brotherhood has said it will have no dealings whatsoever with a regime it says was imposed after a "fascist coup".

The authorities have instead been courting another large Islamist group, the ultra-orthodox Nour party, sometime Morsi allies who broke with him and accepted the army takeover.

Nour says it is not seeking ministerial posts of its own but is backing technocrats and offering advice to Beblawi.

Beblawi himself was selected only after Nour vetoed other candidates for prime minister, including ElBaradei.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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