Egypt's interim president swears in new Cabinet

Associated Press
A poster belonging to supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi lies torn on the ground during clashes with security forces in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Hundreds of Morsi supporters took to the streets on Friday, the traditional Muslim day of prayer, to denounce the military-backed government and call on the release of their fellows detained during other demonstrations. They've been regularly protesting Friday since Morsi's overthrow. (AP Photo/Emad Abul Rahman)
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A poster belonging to supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi lies torn on the ground during clashes with security forces in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Hundreds of Morsi supporters took to the streets on Friday, the traditional Muslim day of prayer, to denounce the military-backed government and call on the release of their fellows detained during other demonstrations. They've been regularly protesting Friday since Morsi's overthrow. (AP Photo/Emad Abul Rahman)

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's new government was sworn in Saturday in a limited reshuffle that kept the powerful ministers of defense and interior in place under a new prime minister named days earlier.

State television aired the ministers being sworn in live from the presidential palace, led by new Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehlib, the outgoing housing minister, a construction magnate who also held a senior position in the now-dissolved party of ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The new Cabinet keeps Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as the country's defense minister. The 59-year-old el-Sissi is widely expected to run for president in elections expected by April.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who oversees the country's police, also remains in place despite wide criticism of his performance in handling rising violence and for using heavy-handed tactics against dissent.

The reshuffle comes after the surprise resignation Monday of the Cabinet, including then-Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi.

El-Sissi overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July. The military chief backed el-Beblawi's government through tumultuous times, including a heavy crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and a nationwide referendum that adopted a new constitution while Islamic militant insurgency and terror attacks surged.

The change of government before the presidential vote appeared orchestrated to curb rising criticism of the outgoing Cabinet, which was accused of failing to stem widening labor strikes and continued protests. It also would spare el-Sissi the disruption associated with forming a new one if he becomes president. Parliamentary elections are expected by the summer, after which a new government is likely to be formed.

In the new lineup, Mehlib kept 20 ministers from el-Beblawi's government and appointed 11 new ones, mostly technocrats. The new Cabinet includes three Christians and four women, but no Islamists. It removes most ministers who were members of political parties formed after the 2011 ouster of Mubarak.

This new interim government is the sixth since 2011. It's also the second interim government after Morsi's ouster.

The new Cabinet will face a host of challenges ranging from Egypt's unstable security situation to a battered economy drained of resources.

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