Mubarak shuffles cabinet; march of million set
Cairo, January 31, 2011
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak appointed a new interior minister on Monday as part of a revamped cabinet designed to defuse the most serious challenge to his rule in three decades.
But it was not immediately clear if the line-up, which now includes three former senior officers at the top, and promises of reform would be enough to mollify opposition groups and protesters calling for Mubarak and the old guard to step down.
As the unprecedented unrest in the Arab world's most populous nation entered a seventh day, thousands of protesters poured into Cairo's Tahrir Square chanting 'Get out ... We want you out' and singing Egypt's national anthem.
The anti-Mubarak movement has called a mass protest for Tuesday and says one million people could take to the streets. Reports said the government has cancelled all trains after protest organisers announced the 'march of a million'.
Soldiers looked on without taking action, which would have been inconceivable just a week ago.
World leaders were trying to figure out how to respond to a crisis that threatens to tear up the Middle East political map. In global markets, share prices fell across Asia on Monday and Brent oil hit a 28-month high.
The protests broke out last week when frustration over repression, corruption and the lack of democracy under Mubarak's 30-year-rule boiled over.
More than 100 people were killed in clashes with security forces in scenes that overturned Egypt's standing as a stable country, promising emerging market and attractive tourist destination.
Mubarak named General Mahmoud Wagdy, previously head of Cairo criminal investigations department, as the new interior minister, sources said.
Wagdy's predecessor was reviled by many Egyptians because of the repressive tactics used by the police force to quash the opposition and criticism of the president.
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi was promoted to deputy prime minister alongside his role as defence minister. Ahmed Aboul Gheit remains as foreign minister.
Samir Mohamed Radwan was named finance minister, replacing Youssef Boutros-Ghali. Samiha Fawzi Ibrahim was named trade minister.
In the early days of the uprising no clear political opposition grouping was evident. But on Monday the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist opposition group, said it was seeking to form a broad political committee with Mohamed ElBaradei to talk to the army.
ElBaradei, a Nobel peace laureate and former head of the UN nuclear agency, has urged Mubarak to go and lent his international stature to a movement that has lacked a leader.
The brotherhood, which has wide support among poor Egyptians, has until now kept in the background of an uprising spearheaded by the young urban poor and students, fearing a harsh crackdown.
London-based Exclusive Analysis analyst Zaineb Al-Assam said he doubted Mubarak would last a month in power and that the Muslim Brotherhood, who are well organised, would do well in any election. Power in the streets had already passed to the protesters, he said.
Crowds flocked in the morning to Tahrir Square, which has become the focus of the uprising, to join protesters who had camped out overnight in defiance of a curfew imposed by Mubarak.
Witnesses said camaraderie between the protesters and soldiers was evident as they shared tea and snacks, standing by tanks daubed with anti-Mubarak graffiti.
'The army has to choose between Egypt and Mubarak,' read one banner in the square. - Reuters