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Defence minister Tantawi heads military council

Cairo, February 11, 2011

Egypt's higher military council will sack the cabinet, suspend both houses of parliament and rule with the head of the supreme constitutional court, Al Arabiya television reported on Friday. 

Defence minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi is the head of the Higher Military Council.

Tantawi, born on Oct. 31, 1935, holds the rank of Field Marshal and has served in the government of Egypt as minister of defence and military production since 1991 and a general commander for the armed forces since 1995.   

Tantawi has served in three wars against Israel, starting with the 1956 Suez Crisis and both the 1967 and 1973 Middle East wars.    

He was appointed deputy prime minister, in addition to his post as defence minister, after Mubarak sacked his cabinet in a failed attempt to calm mass protests on Jan. 29.

His military background and seniority had led to speculation he could be a possible runner for presidency, though some analysts said he had limited support among the armed forces' rank and file.

US officials see Tantawi as an ally committed to avoiding another war with Israel but have in the past criticised him privately as being resistant to political and economic reform.

Tantawi has spoken with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates by phone five times since the crisis began, including as late as on Thursday evening.   

The ties are long-standing and important to Washington, which provides about $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt each year.   

Pentagon officials have been tight-lipped about the talks between Tantawi and Gates but the US defense chief has publicly praised Egypt's military for being a stabilising force during the unrest.

But in private, US officials have characterized Tantawi as someone 'reluctant to change' and uncomfortable with the US  focus on fighting terrorism, according to a 2008 State Department cable released by the WikiLeaks website. - Reuters




Tags: Egypt | Tantawi | Defence Minister |

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