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Egypt Swears In New Cabinet Members as Protests Force Change

July 21 (Bloomberg) -- Egypt replaced some members of the Cabinet in response to demands from protesters who have held sit-ins for almost two weeks to press for faster changes after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

Hazem El Beblawi, an economist and an adviser for the Arab Monetary Fund, was named as finance minister, replacing Samir Radwan, and will also serve as deputy prime minister. Other new appointees include Ali Ibrahim Sabri, as minister of military production, and Mahmoud Eissa as trade and industry minister. More than a dozen ministers were changed in the Cabinet sworn in today, according to a list distributed to reporters in Cairo. Those who kept their posts include the oil, interior, tourism and justice ministers. The Ministry of State for Antiquities has been abolished, a Cabinet statement said.

The changes follow a revival of protests in Egypt, with many camped out since July 8 in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the center of the uprising against Mubarak. Demands include a new government with more powers, the prosecution of former officials accused of corruption and involvement in the killing of demonstrators, and an end to military trials of civilians. Some protesters also call for the removal of the public prosecutor.

“We want ministers and governors who have no ties to the former ruling party,” which has been dissolved, Ahmed Maher, general coordinator for the April 6 Youth Movement that helped coordinate anti-Mubarak protests, said by phone today. “I support having the sit-in continue until all the demands are met,” he said.

Delayed by Objections

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, urged the Cabinet to work to restore security and stability, the state-run Middle East News Agency said. He also called for swift legal action against those who were involved in “corrupting political life.”

The swearing-in ceremony for the new Cabinet members, originally scheduled for July 18, was delayed to today amid objections over some candidates and a hospital visit for medical tests by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.

A coalition of protesting groups, the Alliance of the Youths’ Revolution, said in a statement that it was “giving a chance to the Cabinet reshuffle,” while demanding “the full cleansing of ministries in which the consultations indicated that symbols of the former regime may remain at the helm.”

Policy Changes Unlikely

The Cabinet reshuffle may take some of the steam out of protests, though it probably won’t result in policy changes, Mustapha K. al-Sayyid, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said on July 18. The new ministers are “not known to be adopting a different approach” and have “a very short time to undertake any fundamental change,” he said.

The authorities responded to another demand voiced by the demonstrators last week, announcing the dismissal of hundreds of senior police officers.

Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11 after mass protests and ceded interim authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which says it will hand power to civilian authorities after elections. The military says it will announce before the end of September the date for the parliamentary elections expected to take place before the end of the year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mariam Fam in Cairo at mfam1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Louis Meixler at lmeixler@bloomberg.net.

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