EGYPT: Prime Minister Sharaf begins cabinet reshuffle amid protests

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Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf began overhauling his cabinet Sunday by accepting the resignations of ministers in an effort to calm nine days of protests against the military council ruling the country and the slow pace of reform.

Sharaf promised last week to reshuffle his cabinet and purge the Interior Ministry of police officers and top officials accused of murder in the deaths of more than 600 protesters during the crackdown on the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February.


Sharaf accepted the resignations of Finance Minister Samir Radwan and Industry Minister Samir el Sayad. Foreign Minister Mohamed el Orabi resigned on Saturday. The state news agency MENA reported that Sharaf has submitted a full list of cabinet changes, including ministers for higher education and communications, to the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces, or SCAF, for approval.

Sharaf appointed two new deputies last week to replace his former deputy, Yehia el Gama. One of them, Hazem el Beblawi, is expected to become the new finance minister. Sharaf has been under enormous pressure in recent days as activists and political groups have accused him of lacking the power to force SCAF to achieve the demands of revolution supporters.

Many protesters, who started their sit in in Tahrir Square on July 8, have called for him to step down. The political turmoil illustrates the limited power Sharaf’s military-appointed interim government has in a country ruled by generals. This was underlined over the weekend when a SCAF official told the Egyptian media that under the transitional constitution only the military council has the power to hire or fire cabinet ministers.

SCAF said last week that it supports Sharaf. News of the cabinet resignations, along with searing summer temperatures, appear to have eased the demonstrations in Tahrir. The number of protesters camped in the square has dwindled from thousands to hundreds. But activists, who heckled a military official who attempted to address them on Saturday, said they would remain in Tahrir until the military limits it power.


Egypt protests continue but activists divided over goals

Mubarak denies accusations of killing protesters

Tahrir Square looks like February all over again

--Amro Hassan in Cairo