Egypt's interim gov't gets to work amid protests

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Interim head of state Adli Mansour.

Interim head of state Adli Mansour.

Egypt's interim government sets about the mammoth task of returning the country to civilian rule and rescuing the economy on Wednesday, a process complicated by deadly protests and a political stalemate with powerful Islamist groups.

Interim head of state Adli Mansour, the burly judge leading the army-backed administration, swore in 33 mainly liberal and technocratic ministers at the presidential palace on Tuesday.

He did not include a single minister representing either of Egypt's main Islamist groups that have won five straight elections since 2011.

Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was ousted by the military on July 3 after millions took to the streets to demand his resignation. Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood movement insists he be returned to power before it joins the political process.

The Brotherhood rejected the interim government led by Mansour and Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, a veteran liberal economist.

"It's an illegitimate government, an illegitimate prime minister, an illegitimate cabinet," said Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad. "We don't recognise anyone in it. We don't even recognise their authority as representatives of the government."

The ministers took up their posts hours after seven people were killed and more than 260 wounded when Brotherhood supporters clashed with police in central Cairo and nearby Giza.

The deaths took the number of people killed in clashes since Mursi's overthrow to at least 99.

The confrontations are increasingly polarising society between those who support the military intervention and those who oppose it.

As well as violence and political infighting, the interim government must also drag the Egyptian economy out of its torpor, after two and a half years of upheaval left state coffers and food stocks running dangerously low.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait - rich Gulf Arab monarchies happy to see the fall of the Brotherhood - have promised a total of $12 billion in cash, loans and fuel.

But investors are sceptical that major reforms can be enacted before a permanent government is in place. Parliamentary elections are expected to be held in about six months.

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