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Deadly clashes strike Egypt as a new government takes shape

MGN Online
Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 11:46pm

Just two weeks after the Egyptian military ousted President Mohamed Morsy, the country's interim leader Tuesday swore in a new cabinet that excluded members of powerful Islamist parties that came to political power in the country's first democratic elections.

The news followed state-run media reports that at least seven people died and more than 260 were wounded in overnight clashes in Cairo, where near-daily battles between Morsy's supporters and those opposed to his rule have broken out since he was deposed on July 3.

Outside of the capital, soldiers seized 35 rockets and a machine gun that authorities say were bound for Cairo, according to a military spokesman. The weapons were discovered in a truck that was stopped while trying to make its way through the Cairo-Suez checkpoint, the spokesman said.

The new government of interim President Mansour Adly is part of a military-backed plan that dismantled Morsy's government and suspended the constitution until a new one can be drawn up and new elections can be held in six months.

The appointment of Adly's new cabinet members, which include Hazem El-Beblawi as interim prime minister and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei as interim vice president, is likely to do little to cap the growing anger among Morsy's supporters, who have refused to accept the new government.

Cabinet posts were offered to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsy is a member, and the Salafist Nour Party, presidential spokesman Ahmed El-Moslemani told Al-Masriya TV on Tuesday, adding that everyone should be included in the political process.

"We are not alienating anyone, and we expect most Islamist movements to take part in reconciliation, including the Muslim Brotherhood," he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood, however, refused to participate.

Ahmed Ali, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, recently responded to Mansour's invitation to include the group in the transitional government.

"More than 700 of our members arrested, broadcasters shot down and people killed in front of the Republican Guard. It is impossible to speak under the current circumstances," he said.

"There is no way to have negotiations."

Even as the Egyptian military promises a transition to a civilian government, there were indications that it planned to have an active role in the formation of the new government.

Gen. Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, the nation's military leader, also adopted the title first deputy of the interim prime minister, according to state media.

Among the other appointments to the 34-member cabinet, according to the state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA):

Ahmed Galal, a liberal economist educated in the United States and a World Bank veteran, has been appointed as finance minister, and Hisham Zaazou who will retain his post as tourism minister

The news of the appointments came as Egypt's top prosecutor, Hesham Barakat, opened an investigation into whether Morsy and 18 senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders made a jailbreak during the early days of the 2011 popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Among the allegations, according to state-run EGYNews: Morsy and the others were helped in their escape by elements of the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah along with other Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

The Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed during Mubarak's iron rule, and its members were routinely jailed.

Additionally, authorities are investigating Morsy and several leaders and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood over accusations of spying and inciting the killing protesters following his overthrow. Authorities have have frozen the assets of more than a dozen people in an investigation of violence in Cairo.

The investigations are widely viewed by Morsy's supporters as an attempt to discredit him as the legitimately elected leader of Egypt.

Morsy, sworn in in June 2012 as Egypt's first democratically elected president, has been detained since his ouster.

El-Moslemani said Morsy is "in a safe place, and he is being treated with the utmost dignity that suits a former head of state, and when it comes to the legal charges, I will leave this to the official spokesman of the public prosecutor."

The United States and other Western nations have called for Morsy's release.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki has labeled the detentions of Morsy and members of the Muslim Brotherhood were "politically motivated" and urged the military to let them go.

On Monday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns emphasized the need for stability and tolerance as he became the first U.S. official to meet with Egypt's interim leaders.

Burns urged leaders to end the violence, according to senior State Department officials, adding that "only Egyptians can determine their future."

Egypt has long been a close ally of the United States. The country gets $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid.

CNN's Roba Alhenawi contributed to this report.

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