Egypt PM picks two deputies ahead of cabinet change

CAIRO Sat Jul 16, 2011 6:44pm EDT

Egypt's Prime Minister Essam Sharaf speaks during a joint news conference with Sudan's Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha at Khartoum Airport March 28, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Egypt's Prime Minister Essam Sharaf speaks during a joint news conference with Sudan's Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha at Khartoum Airport March 28, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

CAIRO (Reuters) - Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has chosen a leader of one of Egypt's oldest political parties and an economist to be his deputies as part of a planned cabinet reshuffle, state news agency MENA said Saturday.

The prime minister also announced on his Facebook page that he had accepted the resignation of his Foreign Minister, Mohammed El-Orabi. MENA said Orabi resigned to pave the way for the reshuffle.

Sharaf is in the middle of consultations over the reshuffle he promised last week after Egyptians resumed protests in Cairo to press for faster reforms and a speedy trial of former President Hosni Mubarak, ousted in February.

Sharaf was expected to announce his new cabinet Monday, MENA said.

No names were floated as a replacement for Orabi, who took over earlier this month succeeding Nabil Elaraby, who became Arab League Secretary General.

The news agency quoted Sharaf's foreign policy adviser and spokesman, Mohamed Hegazy, as saying the prime minister had chosen Hazem El Beblawi "to supervise the economic file and the economic group within the cabinet."

Sharaf also chose Ali al-Silmi of the Wafd Party, Egypt's oldest party, as his deputy "for political development and democratic transformation," the agency said.

Hundreds of protesters camped out for more than a week in Cairo's Tahrir Square have been demanding tangible changes on the ground to improve their lives.

They also want speedier trials of Mubarak and some of his aides accused of graft, and of police officers suspected of killing demonstrators in January.

Beblawi, 74, is an adviser to the Arab Monetary Fund in Abu Dhabi.

He received a doctorate from the University of Paris in 1964 and worked as professor of economics at the University of Alexandria until 1980.

He then was chief executive of the state Export Development Bank of Egypt and executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

"One thing seems indisputable in my view. A market economy can only function where the concept of the Rule of Law prevails," Beblawi wrote in 2009.

"Everyone -- governed and governor -- is subject to the Rule of Law, free from arbitrariness and whims. The law defines the scope and limits of activity and guarantees respect for commitments."

Silmi is a 75-year-old former minister of state who served under President Anwar Sadat in the 1970s.

In 2010, he was appointed shadow prime minister of the opposition Wafd Party while Mubarak was still in power, according to local media reports.

(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Sami Aboudi and Patrick Werr; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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