Egypt cabinet takes oath of office

New prime minister and ministers for key porfolios expected to win the approval of pro-reform groups.

    Popular protests have forced several officials linked to Mubarak to step aside [Reuters]

    Egypt's new prime minister and his cabinet have been sworn in by the country's military rulers.

    Egyptian state television on Monday showed members of the government taking their oath before Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt's armed forces supreme council.

    Headed by Essam Sharaf, the prime minister, the cabinet includes new faces in the key foreign, interior and justice ministries.

    Sharaf was appointed on Thursday after protests against the presence of allies of Hosni Mubarak, the ousted president, in the caretaker government.

    The new cabinet is expected to be met with the approval of the pro-reform groups that led the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak from power on February 11.

    The government's main job will be to help steer the country through reforms, a constitutional referendum and towards free elections.

    Fresh faces

    Among the most notable faces in the cabinet designed to meet protesters' demands, is Major-General Mansour el-Essawy, a former Cairo security chief, who replaces Mahmoud Wagdi as interior minister.

    El-Essawy, according to a report by the state news agency, pledged after meeting Sharaf on Sunday that he would work to restore security and reduce the role of the hated state security agency, which is blamed for human-rights abuses against Mubarak's opponents.

    Also in the new cabinet is Nabil Elaraby, who was Egypt's UN representative in the 1990s, taking up the post of foreign minister.

    Elaraby served as a judge at the International Court of Justice between 2001 and 2006.

    He replaces Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, who was in the post since 2004 but who maligned the protesters in the early days of the uprising.

    Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Cairo, said the new ministers would be well received by Egyptians demanding political reforms.

    "When you talk about the individual ministers that were brought in, which portfolios they were given, you can clearly see why it is such a positive step in the eyes of the protesters," he said.

    "First of all, you start with the prime minister ... a very well respected individual. His name actually was brought forth by a group of revolutionary coalition members. So he was an individual that was a consensus prime minister without a doubt.

    "At the same time key ministries - such as foreign affairs, the ministry of justice, the minister of interior - all three individuals [appointed to head them are] very well respected.

    "They mark a very clean departure from the past. Although many of them served under the former President Mubarak, they were well respected individuals [and] their trackrecords really are untarnished and they come with a great deal of street conference, if you will."

    Mass protests

    The new cabinet was unveiled a day after soldiers fired in the air and used stun guns to disperse hundreds of protesters who attempted to storm the state security offices inside the interior ministry in downtown Cairo.

    The protesters said they wanted to see for themselves whether the building had secret cells and to stop officers from destroying possibly incriminating documents.

    Egypt's general prosecutor ordered the detention of 47 police officers and personnel on Monday for burning documents at several state security headquarters.

    "To imagine just a short while ago - six or eight weeks ago - that Egypt's general prosecutor would put 47 senior members of state security under arrest for alleged wrong doing would have been a very unimaginable thing," said our correspondent.

    Separately on Monday, a mainly Christian crowd of 1,000 people held a protest outside the state television building over the burning of a church in the outskirts of Cairo.

    Some Muslims joined the protest.

    Witnesses and a security source said the church in Helwan was torched after a row sparked by a relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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