Embattled Egyptian President Mubarak appointed on Saturday a former air force commander and aviation minister, Ahmed Shafiq, as the new prime minister, in efforts to stem popular rage against his autocratic regime. The move ensures that men with military links are in the top three political jobs.
Hundreds of thousands protests against Egypt president
Shafiq's appointment followed announcement earlier on Saturday that Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief with military experience, would be vice president and in prime position for the top job if Mubarak does not run for president again in September.
Mubarak also named Egypt's military chief Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Anan as the new defense minister.
Mubarak, 82, was also a former air force chief.
The Egyptian cabinet formally resigned on Saturday, at the command of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, following five days of violent anti-government protests. Mubarak addressed the country on Saturday for the fist time since the riots began, saying that he had no intention to resign.
Mubarak's two sons, Gamal and Ala, arrived in London late Saturday as the clashes in their home country continued. The Egyptian president's wife left Egypt later on Saturday and is also expected to arrive in London, Al Jazeera reported.
The popular protests in Egypt, which continue unabated, have left at least 55 reported dead and over 2,000 wounded. Some sources are saying that the death toll could be as high as 100 once confusion on the streets clears up.
The protests are the most serious challenge to Mubarak's 30-year authoritarian rule. The embattled president defended the security forces' crackdown on protesters, but said that he will press ahead with social, economic and political reforms in the country.
Suleiman is the first vice-president of Egypt to be appointed since Mubarak first took power almost thirty years ago. Mubarak himself occupied the position of vice-president under the former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, and took the reigns of power after Sadat was assassinated in 1981.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition movement in Egypt called for Mubarak to relinquish power in a peaceful manner, AFP has reported. The Muslim Brotherhood is officially banned from running for elections for parliament, though some movement members candidate for parliament as independents.
The government's attempts to suppress demonstrations appeared to be swiftly eroding support from the United States- suddenly forced to choose between its most important Arab ally and a democratic uprising demanding his ouster. Washington threatened to reduce a $1.5 billion program of foreign aid if Mubarak escalated the use of force.
Al-Jazeera news reported that Egyptian pro-democracy leader, Mohamed ElBaradei called on Mubarak to step down and set a framework for transition of power as the only way to end street unrests that have rocked Egypt.
The former head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog told Al Jazeera in a phone interview that Mubarak's speech on Friday, in which he said he would form a new government, was "disappointing" for Egyptians.
Countries across the world have weighed in on the crisis in Egypt and have expressed their views on how Mubarak should handle the situation. Iran voiced support for the protesters, calling the mass demonstrations a "wave of Islamic awakening."
"The protests of the Muslim people of Egypt is a move towards gaining justice and realizing their national and religious will," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah expressed support for Mubarak on Saturday, the official Saudi Press Agency said.
"No Arab or Muslim can tolerate any meddling in the security and stability of Arab and Muslim Egypt by those who infiltrated the people in the name of freedom of expression, exploiting it to inject their destructive hatred," SPA quoted King Abdullah as saying.
United States President Barack Obama called on Mubarak on Friday to expand rights within the country.
"Surely, there will be difficult days to come, but the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free and more hopeful," Obama said he told the longtime leader in a phone call from the White House.
Before Obama spoke, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced the administration might cut the $1.5 billion in annual foreign aid sent to Egypt, depending on Mubarak's response to the demonstrations.
Obama also repeated demands by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for Egypt's government to restore access to the internet and social media sites, cut by the authorities in an apparent attempt to limit the flow of information about the protests demanding an end to Mubarak's rule.
Obama noted the United States and Egypt have a close partnership, a reference to Mubarak's support over the years for peace with Israel.
But he said, "We've also been clear that there must be reform, political, social and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people." He added that the demonstrators had a responsibility to express themselves peacefully. He continued, "Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms they seek."
In what appeared to be an effort to distance the bloc from Mubarak's regime, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said on Saturday that the EU is urging Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak to end the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and release all political prisoner.
The European Union was deeply troubled by the spiral of violence in Egypt, Van Rompuy said, and he hoped Mubarak's promises of reform will translate into concrete action. the EU has traditionally had close relations with the Egyptian government as part of its partnerships with countries on the eastern and southern rims of the Mediterranean.
Egypt has also been one of the United States' closest allies in the region since President Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel in 1979 after talks at Camp David.
Mubarak kept that deal after Sadat's 1981 assassination and has been a close partner of every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter, helping Washington exert its will on issues that range from suppressing Islamist violence to counterbalancing the rise of Iran's anti-American Shiite theocracy.
Mubarak has not said yet whether he will stand for another six-year term as president in elections this year. He has never appointed a deputy and is thought to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him despite popular opposition.
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