Egypt's new government begins to take shape

A new cabinet has been formed by Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi.

FILE: Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour named Hazem el-Beblawi as the country's new Prime Minister on 9 July 2013. Picture: AFP

CAIRO - Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi filled senior posts on Sunday in a cabinet that will lead the country under an army-backed "road map" to restore civilian rule following overthrow of elected President Mohamed Morsi.

El-Beblawi, a 76-year-old liberal economist appointed interim prime minister last week, is tapping technocrats and liberals for an administration to govern under a temporary constitution until parliamentary elections in about six months.

He named another liberal economist, Ahmed Galal as finance minister.

His job will be to start repairing the state finances and rescue an economy wrecked by two and a half years of political turmoil.

A former ambassador to the United States, Nabil Fahmy, accepted the post of foreign minister.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a former senior U.N. diplomat, was sworn in as Vice President, a job he was offered last week.

In a speech to a hall full of military officers on Sunday, the army chief who removed the president, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, justified the takeover.

He said the president had lost legitimacy because of mass demonstrations against him.

Sisi said he had tried to avert the need for unilateral action by offering Morsi the option of holding a referendum on his rule, but "the response was total rejection".

He insisted the political process remained open to all groups, though Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has shunned dealings with "usurpers".

"Every political force without exception and without exclusion must realise that an opportunity is available for everyone in political life and no ideological movement is prevented from taking part," Sisi said.


Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, has been held incommunicado at an undisclosed location since the army removed him from power on 3 July, three days after millions marched to demand he resign on the first anniversary of his inauguration.

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.

The public prosecutor said on Sunday that it had ordered the freezing of the assets of 14 Brotherhood and other Islamist leaders.

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.

Senior Brotherhood leader Essam El-Erian said some 240 Morsi supporters, jailed since dozens were shot by troops a week ago, had their detentions extended in a closed hearing inside the prison where they are being held. Lawyers were barred.

"How could there not be a single lawyer for 240 defendants?" he asked. "This constitutes a serious violation of all the principles of the rule of law. Where are the honourable judges in Egypt to challenge these violations that insult their robes?"

Tens of thousands took part in marches on Friday, but the demonstrations ended peacefully, to countrywide relief.

The Brotherhood has called for more marches on Monday.

Morsi's opponents have also called for demonstrations, though their protests are attracting far fewer people now that they have achieved their aim of bringing him down.