Egypt Mans Interim Government as Protests Threaten

Interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi is expected to finalize interim cabinet in next few days; Muslim Brotherhood calls for more pro-Morsi marches on Monday.

Egypt's interim prime minister named senior ministers to his cabinet on Sunday to lead the country under an army-backed "road map" to restore civil rule, with peace having returned to the streets after the military removed President Mohammed Morsi.

Hazem el-Beblawi, a 76-year-old liberal economist appointed interim prime minister last week, is tapping technocrats and liberals for a government to run the country under a temporary constitution until parliamentary elections in about six months.

He named another liberal economist, Ahmed Galal, who has a PhD from Boston University, to the post of finance minister, tasked with repairing unraveling state finances and lifting an economy wrecked by two and a half years of political turmoil.

A former ambassador to the United States, Nabil Fahmy, accepted the post of foreign minister, a sign of the importance the government places in its relationship with the superpower that provides $1.3 billion a year in military aid.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a former senior UN diplomat, was sworn in as vice president, a job he was offered last week.

Government officials had earlier said the finance job would be offered to Hani Kadry, the official who oversaw Egypt's negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. It was not immediately clear why Kadry did not end up in the job.

Leftist politician Godah Abdel Khalek, meanwhile, declined an offer to return to the post of minister of supply in the interim government, citing personal reasons.

"I was offered the post by Biblawi, but I declined for personal reasons," he told Reuters over the phone. Abdel Khalek had held the post before for a few months in 2011.

Sunday marks a week without street violence after clashes between the army, Morsi supporters and opponents killed more than 90 people in the days after his overthrow. 

Morsi held incommunicado

Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, has been held incommunicado at an undisclosed location since the army removed him from power after millions took to the streets to march against him.

The authorities have not charged him with a crime but said on Saturday they were investigating complaints against him over spying, inciting violence and wrecking the economy.

Charges of inciting violence have already been issued against many of the Muslim Brotherhood's top figures, although in most cases police have not followed through with arrests. The Brotherhood says the criminal charges are part of a crackdown against it and the authorities are to blame for the violence.

The public prosecutor said on Sunday that it had ordered the freezing of the assets of 14 Brotherhood and Islamist leaders.

Senior Brotherhood leader Essam El-Erian said some 240 Morsi supporters, jailed since a deadly clash with army troops a week ago, had their detentions extended in a closed hearing inside the prison where they are being held. Lawyers were barred.

"How could there not be a single lawyer for 240 defendants? This constitutes a serious violation of all the principles of the rule of law. Where are the honorable judges in Egypt to challenge these violations that insult their robes?"

Thousands of Morsi's followers have maintained a vigil in a square near a northeast Cairo mosque vowing not to leave until he is restored, a hope that now seems in vain. Tens of thousands marched on Friday, but the demonstrations ended peacefully.

"We feel in the last few days there's more stability, more chance for an economic improvement because there hasn't been a lot of violence," said Ahmed Hilmi, 17, as he manned an open air stall selling juice for people to take home to break their Ramadan fasts.

The Brotherhood has called for more marches on Monday. Morsi's opponents have also called for demonstrations, though their protests are attracting far fewer people now that they have achieved their aim of bringing him down.

Beblawi's challenge is setting up a government that will appear inclusive without Islamists. The Brotherhood has said it will have no dealings whatsoever with a regime it says was imposed after a "fascist coup." 

The authorities have instead been courting another large Islamist group, the Salafist Nour party, sometime Morsi allies who broke with him and accepted the army takeover.

Nour says it has withdrawn from the "road map" because of government violence and is not seeking ministerial posts of its own, but will backing technocrats and offer "advice" to Beblawi.

"We are outside of the road map, but not outside of the political scene," Nour's deputy leader Bassam Zarqa told Al Jazeera. "If there are names for ministries that we oppose, we want our voice heard: 'This one's good, this one's not.'"

He added that the party was concerned about the shutting of media outlets by the authorities, as well as the "vast campaign of detentions" of Morsi supporters.

Beblawi himself was selected only after Nour vetoed other candidates for prime minister, including ElBaradei.  

Egypt's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday no group would be barred from participating in politics.

In a speech, he also defended the army's decision to remove Mursi from power, saying the deposed president had lost legitimacy because of mass demonstrations against him.

"Every political force without exception and without exclusion must realize that an opportunity is available for everyone in political life and no ideological movement is prevented from participating."