New Egypt Cabinet Led By Liberals

CAIRO (AP) -

Egypt’s interim leader on Tuesday swore in the first Cabinet since the military ousted the Islamist president, giving members of the country’s liberal movements key positions and naming three Christians and three women, their highest numbers in an Egyptian government.

The new government is led by Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, an economist. Army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who ousted Mohammed Morsi on July 3, retains his post as defense minister and also took the position of first deputy prime minister, an additional title given to defense ministers in the past.

The Cabinet of more than 30 ministers does not include any members of Islamist parties — a sign of the deep polarization over the removal of Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president. The interim president’s spokesman had earlier said posts would be offered to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, but the group promptly refused.

The Brotherhood has said it will not participate in the military-backed political process and vows to continue protests until Morsi is reinstated. The swearing in of the Cabinet took place hours after overnight clashes between police and Islamist supporters of Morsi left seven protesters dead in the worst outbreak of violence in a week.

The new government, sworn in by interim President Adly Mansour, reflects the largely liberal, secular bent of the factions who backed el-Sissi’s removal of Morsi.

The Cabinet also includes three Christians, including one of the three women, Environment Minister Laila Rashed Iskander.

The Morsi-appointed interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, remains in his post, in charge of the police. Nabil Fahmy, who was Egypt’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1999-2008, becomes foreign minister.

The Cabinet has a total of 33 members, not including el-Beblawi.

Soon after the swearing in, carried live on state media, the one Islamist party that supported the military’s ouster of Morsi, criticized the new Cabinet for its lack of inclusion.

“This is a repeat of the same mistake the last government was blamed for, and leads to a totally biased government,” the Al-Nour Party said in a statement. It said it doesn’t accept “that one movement replaces another to control the government, which should be unbiased and non-partisan.”

The Cabinet is to run the country as it goes through a transition plan announced last week by Mansour, which includes the formation of panels to amend the Islamist-drafted constitution that was passed under Morsi and then the holding of elections for a new parliament and president early next year.