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Mon 18 Jul 2011 04:38 PM

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Egypt delays swearing-in of new cabinet

Reshuffle will change more than half the cabinet, including ministers for finance and foreign affairs

Egypt delays swearing-in of new cabinet
ARAB UNREST Protesters also said they want a quicker trial of Hosni Mubarak (Getty Images)

Egypt has delayed until Tuesday the swearing-in of a new cabinet, appointed after a reshuffle that protesters said only partially met their demands for deeper political and economic reforms.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf had scheduled the ceremony for Monday afternoon, but state television announced: "The Sharaf government will perform the constitutional oath tomorrow to complete consultation today."

A core of protesters, who have camped in Cairo's Tahrir Square since July 8, said they wanted further measures including a quicker trial of Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted as president on Feb. 11 in a popular uprising.

The reshuffle has changed more than half the cabinet, at least 15 ministers, including major portfolios such as finance and foreign affairs. But others, such as Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy, keep their posts.

The police have been a particlar target for protests because of tough tactics used during and after the uprising that toppled Mubarak. Some protesters welcomed Essawy's shake up of top police officers last week. Others say he has not done enough.

"What is this cabinet reshuffle that took place? It is ridiculous. We want Essawy to leave, he was unable to make any changes in the police force. We are not feeling any difference," said Shaimaa Saif el-Din, a 22-year-old in the square.

Ahmed Maher of the April 6 movement, one of the groups driving the protests, said: "Our problem is with the way the police force works, not with the personalities."

The new ministers will take the oath of office in front of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, leader of the military council that took control of Egypt after Mubarak's resignation, the state news agency MENA said.

Tantawi was defence minister under Mubarak for two decades.

Mubarak's lawyer said on Sunday the former president, who has been in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh since April, had slipped into a coma, but hospital officials and the deputy health minister denied the report.

Protesters in Tahrir, the centre of the uprising, unfurled a huge banner on Sunday that read: "Mubarak must stand trial."

Voting for a new parliament is expected later this year, possibly in November, followed by a presidential vote.

Mubarak is due to appear in court on August 3 charged with abuse of power and killing protesters. Many Egyptians think the military wants to find ways to avoid humiliating its former commander in public.

"We are protesting and will stay protesting until all our demands are met," a man said, addressing the crowd in a makeshift camp of tents and canopies in Tahrir.

"If someone is tired, they are most welcome to leave ... If someone believes in what we are doing, please join us," he said. "We won't be fooled again. We want to see Mubarak stand trial."

Among the new ministers are Mohamed Kamel Amr, who replaces Foreign Minister Mohammed el-Orabi, and Hazem el-Beblawi, a 74-year-old adviser at the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund, who replaces Finance Minister Samir Radwan. Orabi had held his post for less than a month.

Beblawi was quoted on Monday as saying he would implement a policy of open markets to encourage investment and that he had no problem accepting foreign loans.

The former finance minister negotiated a $3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help cope with a spiralling budget deficit, only for the military council to scrap it last month after he had signed the deal.

"Foreign loans are acceptable, provided they are used in the appropriate place and that the country benefits," al-Mal newspaper quoted Beblawi as saying.