Fri, Dec 28, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Morsi vows to shuffle Cabinet, fix economy

AFP, CAIRO

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday said he will reshuffle his government to tackle Egypt’s pressing economic problems in a national address hailing a new constitution backed by his Islamist allies. He said he would consult with Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil on the ministerial changes.

“I will deploy all my efforts to boost the Egyptian economy, which faces enormous challenges, but has also big opportunities for growth, and I will make all the changes necessary for this task,” he said.

In his first public remarks since a constitutional referendum held on Dec. 15 and Saturday, Morsi struck a tone that was at times conciliatory and at others defiant toward an opposition that has angrily rejected the constitution.

Morsi said that Egypt had gone through “disquieting” weeks of unrest, but that he was ready for political dialogue.

He said he had taken “difficult” decisions in the lead-up to the adoption of the constitution, which was passed with 64 percent of votes in a referendum that had a low turnout of 33 percent.

However, the decisions were necessary to establish “a new era ... with more security and stability,” he said.

“Yes, there were mistakes on both sides during this temporary period,” Morsi said. “I bear the responsibility with you.”

However, he added: “I only took decisions for God and in the interests of the nation.”

The result, Egypt’s new constitution, would cap nearly two years of turmoil since the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak in February last year and allow Egypt to enter “an era with greater security and stability,” he said.

On the sometimes violent protests against his push for the new constitution, Morsi said: “Unfortunately, some people didn’t realize the difference between the right to express one’s opinion and the recourse to violence to try to impose one’s opinion by hindering public institutions.”

Differences of opinion in a democracy were “healthy,” but “we all reject violence,” he said.

The new constitution, which he held up in his televised speech, represented “a new dawn for Egypt,” he added.

Morsi rejected opposition allegations of fraud and said he was determined “to apply the will of the people” to promote “growth, progress and social justice.”

The opposition, made up of a broad mix of left-wing, Christian, liberal and secular groups, is challenging the referendum, although it seems largely resigned to the new constitution.

However, its umbrella coalition, the National Salvation Front, says it will continue its struggle to have the charter replaced with another drafted through a political consensus.

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