CAIRO, July 16, 2013 (AFP)
CAIRO, July 16, 2013 (AFP)
Egypt’s first interim government since the military toppled president Mohamed Morsi two weeks ago was sworn in Tuesday, after deadly clashes between the security forces and the deposed Islamist’s supporters.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the influential movement from which Morsi hails, rejected the 35-member cabinet, with spokesman Gehad El-Haddad tellingAFP:
“We don’t recognise its legitimacy or its authority”.
None of the newly appointed ministers are affiliated to any Islamist party or movement, with the Brotherhood and the ultra-conservative Al-Nur party having both rejected calls for them to participate.
Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general behind the popularly backed coup that overthrew Morsi, was appointed first deputy prime minister and minister of defence in the government headed by liberal economist Hazem al-Beblawi.
The swearing in ceremony took place after overnight clashes in the heart of Cairo and in adjacent Giza, in which seven people were killed and 261 wounded, health officials said. Hundreds of protesters were also arrested.
It also came after US envoy Bill Burns — the most senior US official to visit since the military coup on July 3 — appealed for an end to the violence rocking the Arab world’s most populous nation.
But within hours of his statement, the Egyptian capital was rocked by political violence for the first time since dozens of Morsi supporters were shot dead outside an elite army barracks early last week.
Two people died in clashes around the central Ramses area near Tahrir Square, while another five were killed in Giza, emergency services told AFP.
A security source cited by state media said 401 protesters were arrested in the Ramses area alone. At least 17 security personnel were injured.
Thousands of Islamists had poured onto the streets after the iftar meal, with which Muslims break their daytime fast during the holy month of Ramadan, to demand the reinstatement of Morsi, who has been in custody since his overthrow.
Some of them blocked the October 6 bridge over the Nile in central Cairo, where security forces fired tear gas to drive them back.
The protesters responded by hurling rocks at the security forces, triggering fresh volleys of tear gas, with clashes continuing in adjacent Ramses Square and elsewhere late into the night.
Egypt has been rocked by a wave of deadly attacks since the coup, with the latest deaths bringing to more than 100 the number of people killed, according to an AFP tally of confirmed deaths.
Speaking a day earlier, the US envoy urged the military to avoid “politically motivated arrests” amid growing international unease at the crackdown on the Brotherhood.
Washington has refrained from saying Morsi was the victim of a coup, which would legally require a freeze on some $1.5 billion in US military and economic assistance to Cairo.
Several leading Republican lawmakers have called for US aid to be cut because of the army’s removal of Morsi.
The spokesman of Egypt’s interim presidency, Ahmed al-Muslimani, had urged all of the country’s political forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to take part in national reconciliation efforts.
But the Brotherhood has refused to play any part in the interim government unveiled on Tuesday, which included three women ministers, and three Coptic Christians.
Analysts said, however, that they expect efforts to continue aimed at bringing Islamists into the army-backed administration.
“It’s quite an inclusive cabinet. I think there will be an attempt to bring some Salafists in later so that everyone is brought in,” said Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University.
During his single year of turbulent rule, Morsi was accused of concentrating power in Brotherhood hands, sending the economy into freefall and failing to protect minorities.
But the Islamist leader’s supporters say his overthrow was an affront to democracy.
Egypt’s new rulers voiced “strong resentment” on Tuesday at comments by Turkey’s Islamist premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan backing Morsi as the country’s only legitimate president.
Foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty expressed “strong resentment at comments like these, which… represent a clear intervention in internal Egyptian affairs”.
The diplomatic spat came as the authorities tighten the screws on Morsi’s backers, freezing the assets of 14 top Islamists, including nine Brotherhood leaders.