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Middle East
Egypt PM addresses Tahrir rally
Essam Sharaf speaks to thousands of pro-democracy campaigners who had gathered in centre of Cairo after Friday prayers.
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2011 03:45 GMT
Egypt's new prime minister delivered a speech to a crowd of tens of thousands in Tahrir Square on Friday [Al Jazeera]

Essam Sharaf, the new Egyptian prime minister, has addressed a massive rally by pro-democracy campaigners in Cairo's Tahrir [Liberation] Square.

The square in the centre of the Egyptian capital was the focal point of anti-government protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak last month. 

He appeared on the stage with Mohammed el-Beltagy, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Making a brief speech, Sharaf said the security apparatus - much hated by the people during Mukarak's rule - must work for the good of the people.

'Draw legitimacy'

During his address in Cairo, Sharaf told the cheering crowds that he had come "to draw legitimacy" from them, and said he will do whatever he can to respond to the revolution demands.

Sharaf appeared on stage with a Muslim Brotherhood leader [Reuters]

"I'm telling you, I came here because I've been assigned a big responsibility, a heavy burden, that requires patience and strong will," Sharaf told the crowds gathered in the square.

And there is no other place other than here than Tahrir, where we can extract this will and determination. We are with you.

"You have achieved a big task and the bigger objective is to rebuild Egypt. 

"Please listen to me, I’m praying to God that I would see Egypt a free country where opinion is not captured in prison cells and see that the security of the citizen is a top priority. 

"And that the security apparatus works for the good of the citizens and at the end I would like to say, please if you allow me, there are lots of demands that we are working on, but I would like to end my speech. 

"I pray to god that may Almighty God has honoured me with more than I've asked for. 

"And I pray to God to help me to be able to deserve this position.  Please, raise your head up, you are an Egyptian.
 
"I take my goals from you, and I promise you, if I cannot fulfil those objectives, I will come and join you as a protester."

The rally held after Friday prayers was aimed at pressing the country's military rulers to deliver on their promises of reform.

"What is so iconic about this image and historic is that immediately adjacent to him is a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed el-Beltagy. Now that image would have been impossible to imagine just a few weeks ago," Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Tahrir, said.

"A senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood standing side-by-side with the current prime minister of Egypt addressing thousands of people ... Indeed it is a very historic moment."

Friday's demonstration came a day after the resignation of prime minister Ahmed Shafiq. Sharaf, a former transport minister, was subsequently named the the new prime minister by the military supreme council.

Shafiq's resignation had been one of the protesters' key demands after 18 days of mass rallies forced former president  Mubarak to step down on February 11.

'Vocal critic'

Sharaf's appointment has been received well by ordinary Egyptians.

"Certainly he has earned a lot of street credibility with these protesters and more importantly with the political factions who had actually recommended his name to the military council as a potential replacement for the outgoing prime minister," Mohyeldin said.

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"He was a very vocal critic of the regime and because he himself was seen as a protester when he didn't have any position of power, when he wasn't even considered as a potential prime minister, that certainly earned him a lot of respect."

Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, who returned to Egypt to join the protests after heading the Vienna-based UN nuclear agency, welcomed Shafiq's resignation.

"We are on the right track, I express my sincere appreciation to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces who have accepted the demand of the people," he wrote on the microblogging site Twitter.

Meanwhile on Friday, Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass was quoted in Egyptian newspapers as saying he would not participate in the new government to be led by Sharaf.

Hawass has been a cabinet minister since January 31 when Mubarak named a new government led by Shafiq.

Hawass said he was no longer able to carry out his duties amid what he called a campaign against him by officials at his ministry.

Sharaf has been charged by the military council with forming a new cabinet.

The council had previously ordered the government to run the country's affairs for six months "or until the end of parliamentary and presidential elections".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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