Egyptian PM taken to hospital, new cabinet delayed

CAIRO Mon Jul 18, 2011 7:29pm EDT

Egyptians chant slogans against the government and military rulers after Friday prayers in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, north of Cairo July 15, 2011. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Egyptians chant slogans against the government and military rulers after Friday prayers in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, north of Cairo July 15, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf was taken to hospital because of blood pressure problems on Monday, and the swearing in of a much-changed cabinet was delayed.

Sharaf, 59, underwent medical tests in Dar al-Fouad hospital in Cairo after suffering a fall in blood pressure, the state MENA news agency reported. A cabinet source said Sharaf later left the hospital.

"His condition is stable," said one security source.

Sharaf's admittance to hospital occurred after a ceremony to swear in his new cabinet scheduled for Monday was delayed until Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if it would be delayed further.

The cabinet reshuffle was designed to placate protesters demanding deeper political and economic reforms by Egypt's military rulers, who took over when Hosni Mubarak was driven from office in February by a popular uprising.

The protesters, who have camped in Cairo's Tahrir Square since July 8, have also demanded a quick trial of Mubarak.

They said the reshuffle, changing half of the cabinet including the foreign and finance ministers, only partially met their demands.

Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy is set to keep his post. The police, who fall under his ministry, have been a particular target for protesters because of tough tactics used during and after the uprising that toppled Mubarak.

Some protesters welcomed Essawy's shake-up of top police officers last week. Others say he has not done enough.

"What is this cabinet reshuffle that took place? It is ridiculous. We want Essawy to leave, he was unable to make any changes in the police force. We are not feeling any difference," said Shaimaa Saif el-Din, a 22-year-old demonstrator.

The new ministers were due to take the oath of office in front of the military council's head, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who was Mubarak's defense minister for two decades.

Mubarak's lawyer said on Sunday the former president, who has been in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh since April, had slipped into a coma, but hospital officials and the deputy health minister denied the report.

The former president is to appear in court on August 3 charged with abuse of power and killing protesters.

Many Egyptians believe the army wants to find ways to avoid humiliating its former commander in public. Security sources said Mubarak's trial could take place in Sharm el-Sheikh and not Cairo as planned.

GREATER TRANSPARENCY

With protesters demanding greater transparency in trying former officials, the trial of former Information Minister Anas el-Fekky and another official was broadcast live on state television on Monday.

A local television station broadcast what it said was the first footage of some of Mubarak's former aides as well as his older son Alaa in white prison uniforms.

Among the new ministers are Mohamed Kamel Amr, who replaces Foreign Minister Mohammed el-Orabi, and Hazem el-Beblawi, a 74-year-old adviser at the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund, who replaces Finance Minister Samir Radwan.

Beblawi was quoted on Monday as saying he would implement a policy of open markets to encourage investment and that he had no problem accepting foreign loans.

"Foreign loans are acceptable, provided they are used in the appropriate place and that the country benefits," al-Mal newspaper quoted Beblawi as saying.

Radwan negotiated a $3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help cope with a spiraling budget deficit, only for the military council to scrap it last month after he had signed the deal.

The man initially chosen to run the antiquities ministry, Abdel-Fattah al-Banna, dropped out on Monday after he came under fire for lacking archaeology credentials.

Preparations for a parliamentary election will begin on September 18, state media reported. An army source said last week the election may be held in November, two months later than previously suggested.

(Additional reporting by Edmund Blair, Sherine El Madany, Shaimaa Fayed, Mohammed Abdellah, Marwa Awad and Ali Abdelatti; Writing by Patrick Werr and Sami Aboudi, editing by Ralph Gowling)

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