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Egypt's military-backed government resigns

CAIRO (AP) - Egypt's interim prime minister announced Monday the resignation of his Cabinet, a surprise move that could be designed in part to pave the way for the nation's military chief to leave his defense minister's post to run for president.

Hazem el-Beblawi's military-backed government was sworn in on July 16, less than two weeks after Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the defense minister, ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi after a year in office. Its ministers will remain in their posts in a caretaker capacity until the president picks a prime minister to form a new Cabinet.

The government's resignation, announced by el-Beblawi in a live TV broadcast, came amid a host of strikes, including one by public transport workers and garbage collectors. An acute shortage of cooking gas has also been making front page news the past few days.

Egypt's political system gives most powers to the president. The prime minister usually handles day-to-day economic management, but does not set key policies. Under deposed President Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years until his 2011 ouster, the prime minister was perceived as a scapegoat for government failings.

It was not immediately clear whether el-Beblawi will stay at the helm of a new government or will step aside for a new prime minister. Local media has repeatedly reported that he planned to reshuffle his government but not resign.

He said the Cabinet's decision to resign was made during Monday's weekly government meeting, but he gave no details.

El-Beblawi has often been derided in the media for his perceived indecisiveness and inability to introduce effective remedies for the country's economic woes. He has also been criticized for the security forces' inability to prevent high-profile terror attacks blamed on militants sympathetic with Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.

The outgoing prime minister acknowledged the difficult conditions in which his Cabinet functioned, but suggested that Egypt was in a better place now that it was when he first took office. He also pointed out that while members of his Cabinet may not have represented the nation's top talents, they were experts in their fields who accepted Cabinet posts at a very difficult time.

"The Cabinet has, in the last six or seven months, responsibly and dutifully shouldered a very difficult and delicate burden and I believe that, in most cases, we have achieved good results," he said.

"But like any endeavor, it cannot all be success but rather within the boundaries of what is humanly possible," el-Beblawi said. The goal, he added, was to take Egypt out of a "narrow tunnel" brought about by security, political and economic pressures.

Commenting on the flurry of strikes, the outgoing prime minister cautioned Egyptians that this was not the time for making demands. "We must sacrifice our personal and narrow interests for the benefit of the nation."

A presidential bid by the popular el-Sissi has been widely anticipated and leaving him out of the next Cabinet will most likely be accompanied or soon followed by an announcement by the 59-year-old soldier that he is running.

El-Sissi has already secured the support of Egypt's top military body, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to launch a presidential bid.

Already, the career infantry officer trained in Britain and the United States has been acting in a somewhat presidential manner. He paid a highly publicized visit to Russia earlier this month, when he secured the Kremlin's goodwill, its blessing for his likely presidential bid and negotiated a large arms deal.

Last week, his wife made her first public appearance since Morsi's ouster, seated next to him in a military ceremony.

The resignation followed the adoption last month of a new constitution drafted by a mostly liberal and secular panel and two months ahead of a presidential election, now expected to be held in April. The charter gives the military the exclusive right to pick the defense minister for the next two, four-year presidential terms.

In Egypt, the defense minister is routinely the armed forces' commander in chief, so if el-Sissi is left out of the next Cabinet, then he would be left in a vacuum unless he announces his presidential candidacy simultaneously as or just before the new government is sworn in. Newspapers and broadcasters with ties to the military have tipped Chief of Staff Gen. Sedki Subhi to be the next defense minister.

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gdurdeniii February 24 2014 at 5:16 PM

President Hosni Mubarak was a Airforce General who retired to become the president. This is another case of the military controlling the country. Their military leader retires and becomes President with token elections for show.

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Qazer February 24 2014 at 4:58 PM

were usa who cares.

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usci1 February 24 2014 at 3:43 PM

The definition of insanity applies. Same syndrome with the expectation of a "better" outcome which (doesn't happen) is subjective and relative to their national religious culture. What amazes me is that the people of Egypt have no desire to go back to the ancient values that made Egypt a radiant civilization.

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jdsept February 24 2014 at 3:47 PM

Ancient values? Like conquering its neighbors, slavery and an all powerful Godlike pharaoh? Do the Egyptians need another Roman invasion turning them into a second rate nation? Do they need another long line of outside Greek pharaohs ruling the people?

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dracura94 February 24 2014 at 3:15 PM

Regardless of what anyone else says or what spin the news sources come up with, I believed from the beginning that the military takeover was benevolent and unselfish. The Egyption military wants only the best for their country and has acted responsibly.

Both Egtpt and Saudi Arabia - despite what history tells us and what seems to be the case are allied with Israel - a formerly sworn enemy - to act as a nuclear hedgerow against the "Axis of Evil" which stretches from Syria to Iran to Afghanistan and Pakistan which has nuclear capability already.

Regardless of past differences Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia work together with survival in mind. While Israel would not use WMD in Syria, Iran is a different story. Israel will - if necessary vaporize Teheran. Neither Russia nor Pakistan will retaliate because Israel has a swarm of nuclear missles targeted at Russia.

Syria is the key, but President Obama's naivety makes dealing with Bashir Assad unlikely. Therefore Egypt remains our best chance of minimizing the terrorist threat to Israel.

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jdsept February 24 2014 at 3:58 PM

Most dictators, which is what the Egyptian military is, claim to be benevolent until push comes to shove and they need to kill those in the street to retain power. Israel has no need to attack Syria because they are no threat at the moment with their own inner turmoil. Have they attacked Syria first in the past when Syria was seen as a threat? YES. Israel will not let Iran powerful to need WMDS to put Iran in its place. Before Iran gets that strong, Israel will use conventional weapons. Please, Israel is no nuke threat to Russia, any move in that direction Israeli sand would be turned to glass. Russia 4500 nuke war heads, Israel 200 at most. http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Nuclearweaponswhohaswhat Israel being so small and so close to Russia, would disappear before they got many off. Russia being so large and spread out? Hummm Also the delivery systems between the two countries are NOT comparable.

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vbub101 February 24 2014 at 11:39 PM

you forget about the US

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tibbs400 February 24 2014 at 2:44 PM

You sure that's not David Letterman without makeup?

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John Vilvens February 24 2014 at 1:07 PM

They made a arms deal with russia. They had no choice but to make the deal they do not trust America to keep its word. America has turned it back on many of it allies and Egypt when were they could trust someone to keep thier word.

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MO MONEY MOMONEY February 24 2014 at 3:11 PM

...and she wants to be President when she was an utter failure as Secretary of State.

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jdsept February 24 2014 at 4:00 PM

Egypt's military exists only because of American aid.

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Vimala Nowlis February 24 2014 at 12:47 PM

They need to forget pretending to be a democracy. It never was one. All it ever knew was military dictatorship throughout it's long history. As Nasser said, "Only the military can control Egypt." He has been proven right again in recent years.

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ilenedan2 February 24 2014 at 12:06 PM

I feel for the Egyptian people. May they know prosperity and peace, and hopefully someday also the democracy, free elections, and separation of church and state most of us are so fortunate to enjoy.

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Vimala Nowlis February 24 2014 at 12:49 PM

They had a "free election" and elected a president. But the losers went on protests and riots and petitioned the military to oust him. They got what they deserve!

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MO MONEY MOMONEY February 24 2014 at 3:14 PM

The elections where far from free. They where altered by the leftist and religious leaders. The Egyptian people are well educated freedom loving people and evidently courageous enough to fight for their freedom.

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usci1 February 24 2014 at 3:48 PM

They choose to believe their religious leaders and their teachings. They get what they choose. That is freedom and democracy?

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goodgrief61945 February 24 2014 at 11:36 AM

Making arms deals with Russia ?? Time to stop ALL aide.

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xessexcva9 February 24 2014 at 1:17 PM

They have to be able to have faith that whoever they deal with will keep their word, and the administration of the US backed Morsi and the muslim brotherhood. I also would be dealing with Moscow.

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simpljb February 24 2014 at 11:19 AM

seems to me like the entire government leaders need to step aside , especially if they have been involved with the massacres that were there prior , Egypt needs a fresh start

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