Egypt PM faces tough cabinet task

Egypt’s newly appointed Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi is beginning work on forming a new cabinet, a week after the army ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Mr Beblawi is expected to offer posts to Mr Morsi’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, although it has refused to co-operate with what it says it a coup.

The main liberal coalition has said it will not back the plan to hold fresh elections unless amendments are made.

The US said it was “cautiously encouraged” by the move towards reform.

The timetable for new elections was announced by Interim President Adly Mansour on Monday evening, hours after at least 51 people – mostly Muslim Brotherhood members – were killed outside the military barracks in Cairo where Mr Morsi’s supporters believe he is in detention.

The decree laid out plans to set up a panel to amend the suspended Islamist-drafted constitution within 15 days.

The changes would then be put to a referendum – to be organised within four months – which would pave the way for parliamentary elections, possibly in early 2014.

Once the new parliament convenes, elections would be called to appoint a new president.

Late on Tuesday Ahmed el-Musalamani, spokesman for the interim president, said talks on a new cabinet would start on Wednesday.

He said posts would be offered to the Brotherhood’s political wing the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) – which won Egypt’s first free elections in 2012 – and to the ultraconservative Salafist Nour party.

However the proposals were widely rejected by both Islamist and liberal parties.

Mohamed Kamal, a senior official in FJP, told the BBC: “We will never take part in any cabinet as long as Morsi is not back as a president.”

The party’s deputy chairman, Essam al-Erian, earlier called the timetable announced by Mr Mansour “a constitutional decree by a man appointed by putschists”.

Nour had initially backed the ousting of Mr Morsi, but pulled out of the election process after the killings at the Presidential Guard barracks. It opposed the appointment of two prime ministers before approving Mr Beblawi.

The National Salvation Front (NSF), Egypt’s main liberal opposition movement, said it had not been consulted on the document vital to Egypt’s political transition.

An official in one of the parties in the NSF told the AFP news agency the plan foresees new “legislative, executive and judicial powers” for the interim president, and that by signing up to it “you would look like a hypocrite”.

“It makes it look as if you are not against dictatorship, just against a dictatorship that is not from your group,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.

Even the Tamarod movement, which led the mass protests that ousted Mr Morsi, said it had not been consulted on the election plan and was asking to see the interim leader to discuss the situation.

‘Unacceptable coup’

Mr Morsi’s removal last Wednesday followed days of mass protests by people who accused him of becoming increasingly authoritarian, pursuing an Islamist agenda, and failing to tackle Egypt’s economic woes.

The army’s moves were welcomed by some Gulf states, and two – the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – have made major pledges of financial help in a show of support for the new administration.

In Washington, the Obama administration said it was “cautiously encouraged by the announcement by the interim government that it has a potential plan for moving forward with a democratic process and elections”.

“We call on all parties to engage in a dialogue about that process and not to refuse to participate, because we believe the best hope for resolving this crisis is through a process that is inclusive and in which everyone participates,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

The state department said it would continue to encourage the Brotherhood to take part in the political process.

But other nations were strongly against the army’s actions – perhaps the most vocal of which was Turkey.

In the aftermath of the ousting of Mr Morsi, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: “It is unacceptable for a government, which has come to power through democratic elections, to be toppled through illicit means and, even more, a military coup.”

On Tuesday, the head of the army, Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, warned that the future of Egypt was “too important and sacred for manoeuvres or hindrance, whatever the justifications”.

He said that neither the army nor the people of Egypt would accept “the stalling or disruption” of this “difficult and complex” period.

 Source: BBC

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