Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak swore in a new Cabinet yesterday, replacing one dissolved as a concession to unprecedented protests against his government.
In the most significant change, the interior minister — who heads internal security forces — was replaced. A retired police general, Mahmoud Wagdi, was named to replace Habib el-Adly, who is widely despised by protesters for the brutality shown by security forces.
Still, the new Cabinet is unlikely to satisfy the tens of thousands of protests who have taken to the streets in cities across Egypt over the past week demanding the ouster of Mubarak and his entire regime.
When Mubarak announced the dissolving of the previous government late on Friday and named his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as his vice president, protesters on the streets rejected the move as an attempt by Mubarak to cling to power after more than 30 years in office.
The new line-up of Cabinet ministers announced on state TV included stalwarts of Mubarak’s regime, but purged several of the prominent businessmen who held economic posts and have engineered the country’s economic liberalization policies in the past decades. Many Egyptians resented the influence of millionaire politician-moguls, who were close allies of the president’s son, Gamal Mubarak, long thought to be the heir apparent.
Mubarak retained long-serving defense minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. The longest-serving Cabinet minister, Culture Minister Farouq Hosni, was replaced by Gaber Asfour, a widely respected literary figure.
He named Egypt’s most famous archeologist, Zahi Hawass, as state minister for antiquities, a new post.
Meanwhile, the anti-Mubarak movement, backed by former UN nuclear official Mohamed ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood, aims to hold a 1 million-person march in Cairo tomorrow to demand the resignation of the 82-year-old ruler, said Mahmoud El-Said, one of the organizers.
That would be the biggest demonstration in a week-long uprising that has left as many as 150 dead.
The opposition has set up a committee, including ElBaradei and the Brotherhood, that will convey the movement’s demands to the government, said Ayman Nour, who was a distant second to Mubarak in the nation’s first multi-candidate election in 2005.
ElBaradei, 68, told CNN TV that he was willing to “serve as a bridge from an authoritarian system into a democracy” and said Mubarak must leave the country in the next few days.
The government yesterday canceled all trains in response to the announcement of today’s march.
“Train traffic has been stopped,” the presenter on state TV said
In other developments, EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton yesterday urged Mubarak to immediately hold talks with the opposition and respond to the aspirations of anti-government protesters.
“The legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people should be responded to. Their aspirations for a just, better future should be met with urgent, concrete and decisive answers, and with real steps,” Ashton said.
“There needs to be a peaceful way forward based on an open and serious dialogue with the opposition parties and all parts of civil society, and we believe it needs to happen now,” she told reporters ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.