Egypt named new ministers of the interior, foreign affairs and justice on Sunday
in a reshuffle that met many demands of reformists seeking a purge of officials
chosen by ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
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The reshuffle marks the latest
reforms enacted by the ruling military council, which has appeared ever more
responsive to the demands of groups that rose up against Mubarak in mass
protests and swept him from power on February 11.
Nabil Elaraby, a former
International Court of Justice judge, was named minister of foreign affairs,
replacing Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the face of Mubarak’s foreign policy since 2004 and
the most prominent minister to hang on this long. Elaraby was Egypt’s former
permanent representative at the United Nations, and is remembered for expressing
reservations about the Camp David peace treaty with Israel that he helped to
negotiate, Egyptian political scientist Kamal al- Sayyid said. Elaraby was also
a member of Cairo’s delegation to the Egyptian-Israeli arbitration tribunal over
the status of Taba from 1986 to 1988.
During his tenure at the
international court, Elaraby was a member of the panel that issued the advisory
opinion on the construction of the West Bank security barrier.
protested Elaraby’s appointment to the panel, claiming he was not objective and
held anti-Israel views, including his call to sue the Jewish state for genocide.
In an August 2001 interview with an Egyptian newspaper, two months before his
appointment to the panel, Elaraby said, “I personally support an Arab Muslim
claim against Israeli crimes.”
Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed
Forces last week appointed a prime minister with the backing of youth protest
groups to replace Ahmed Shafiq, whom Mubarak appointed to the post in his last
weeks in power. The new cabinet will require the approval of the council headed
by Field Marshal Muhammad Hussein Tantawi.
Thousands of youths marched to
state security buildings in Cairo and across Egypt over the weekend, breaking
into 11 and seizing classified documents. Footage of the break-ins was posted on
Some security buildings were torched. Witnesses said police were
burning secret documents that could incriminate security officials. Police
blamed protesters for the fires.
On Sunday around 1,000 protesters
gathered in front of the interior ministry, demanding entry to gather more
Some said they were confronted by plain clothes men with
In Beirut, around 8,000 protesters opposed to Lebanon’s sectarian
political system chanted, “The people want the overthrow of the system,” echoing
the calls heard in Egypt and throughout the Arab world in recent
The constitution in Lebanon, which has been without a government
since Prime Minister Saad Hariri was toppled by Hezbollah and its political
allies in January, enshrines a division of power between different religious
sects. But critics say the delicate power-sharing has also hindered development,
fuelled corruption and entrenched the leaders of Lebanon’s various Christian and
“Bread, knowledge, freedom.
And no to political
sectarianism,” one banner at the protest read.
In Saudi Arabia,
meanwhile, security forces have detained at least 22 minority Shi’ites who
protested last week against discrimination, activists said on Sunday, as the
kingdom tried to keep the wave of Arab unrest outside its borders. Saudi
Shi’ites have staged small demonstrations in the Eastern Province, which holds
much of the oil wealth of the world’s top crude exporter.
were arrested on Thursday plus four on Friday, so the total is 26. This was all
in Qatif,” said rights activist Ibrahim al-Mugaiteeb, who heads the independent
Saudi-based Human Rights First Society.
The province is near Bahrain,
also the scene of protests in recent weeks by majority Shi’ites against their
Sunni rulers. Plans by that country to create 20,000 jobs in its security
apparatus could be a move to open up government jobs to the country’s
disgruntled Shi’ites and appease protesters against the Sunniled
Bahrain’s Minister of Interior Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah
al-Khalifa told local newspaper editors on Saturday that King Hamad bin Isa had
ordered a round of new hires in a number of government institutions, including
20,000 jobs in his ministry.
“We hope this step will have a positive
effect on the safety and security of citizens,” the Al-Wasat daily quoted the
minister as saying. “The minister said national dialogue was the way to
achieving political stability and of raising demands.” The opposition said it
interpreted the announcement as an attempt to appease Shi’ite protesters who say
government jobs have been shut to them.
“I think it’s mainly meant for
Shi’ites, in particular for the coming graduates.
is one reason why we’re having people in the street,” Jasim Husain of Wefaq, the
main Shi’ite opposition group, said.
In Washington, the United States
warned its citizens in Yemen on Sunday to consider departing as protests seeking
the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh gather momentum, saying the security
risk in the impoverished state was extremely high.
Tens of thousands of
protesters have camped out in major Yemeni cities, their tone hardening daily,
and protests turned to clashes in the town of Ibb on Sunday when government
loyalists attacked demonstrators with sticks and stones. Violence also flared in
outlying provinces, where six security men were killed in attacks blamed on
“The Department [of State] urges US citizens not to travel to
Yemen. US citizens currently in Yemen should consider departing,” the US State
Department said in a travel warning. “The security threat level in Yemen is
extremely high due to terrorist activities and civil unrest,” it
Britain has also warned against travel there, advising for people
to leave by commercial flights if they do not have any pressing reasons to stay.