* Tourism minister sees "dire consequences"
* New Luxor governor is member of ex-militant group
* Says proud of pharaonic temples, will protect them
* Pledges to welcome and protect tourists
(Rewrites with tourism minister resignation)
By Tom Perry and Asma Alsharif
CAIRO, June 18 Egypt's tourism minister tendered
his resignation on Tuesday over President Mohamed Mursi's
decision to appoint as governor of Luxor a member of a hardline
Islamist group blamed for slaughtering 58 tourists there in
Prime Minister Hisham Kandil did not accept the resignation
of Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou, who remains in the post for
now. However, the move pointed to a split in government over an
appointment that one critic called "the last nail in the coffin"
of the tourism industry.
Mursi appointed Adel Mohamed al-Khayat, a member of al-Gamaa
al-Islamiya, as Luxor governor this week, a move seen as a sign
of a deepening political alliance between the once-armed group
and the head of the state's more mainstream Muslim Brotherhood.
Khayat told Reuters on Tuesday he had no role in the group's
militant past including the 1997 massacre at the temple of
Hatshepsut in Luxor's Valley of the Queens. He promised to
welcome tourists and keep them safe.
But Zaazou, an independent technocrat, added his voice to
critics who say Mursi's choice deals another blow to an industry
already weakened by the unrest of the last two years. He said it
was a move with "dire consequences."
"The minister is committed to his position on resigning, all
the while the governor of Luxor remains in his position," the
state news agency reported, quoting his spokeswoman.
Sixty-two people died, all but four of them foreigners, in
the 1997 attack designed to cut off tourist revenue to the
government of then-President Hosni Mubarak. Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya
renounced violence more than a decade ago and has moved into the
political mainstream since Mubarak was toppled.
In a telephone interview with Reuters, 60-year-old new
governor Khayat insisted he would work to develop tourism:
"Luxor is open to all tourists from all over the world," he
said. "They are my main concern and are looked after by the
state, which is responsible for their security and their
Khayat said he had joined the group in 1975, when it first
emerged, but denied any role in militancy. He said his activism
was restricted to taking part in university seminars, and he had
worked as a civil servant at the housing ministry since 1986.
The dominance of Islamists has raised concerns among their
opponents about the fate of Egypt's pharaonic temples, deemed
un-Islamic by hardliners. But Khayat said he was proud of the
country's ancient heritage.
"God willing, the temples will remain as they are and we
will work on cleaning them, protecting them and lighting them so
that they are in the best image and no one will be able to harm
them," he said. "They are great monuments."
Asked about his views on alcohol consumption, an important
issue for the local economy as it seeks to draw in visitors, he
said: "I have no intentions that would harm tourism."
Tourism workers, remembering the heavy blow to their
livelihood from the Luxor massacre, protested outside the
governor's office for a second day, though Khayat has yet to
arrive there. The industry has been hit by falling visitor
numbers in the two years since the revolution.
"His extremist background will surely affect tourism," Wael
Ibrahim, head of the Luxor tour guide association, told Reuters
by phone. "International newspapers wrote about this ... For
sure this will lower tourism levels significantly."
Sarwat Agami, head of another Luxor industry association,
said the appointment had "hammered the last nail in the coffin
of tourism in the historic tourist city".
Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya was implicated in the 1981
assassination of President Anwar Sadat and waged an armed
insurrection against the state in the 1990s. It had ties to al
Qaeda, and its spiritual leader is jailed in the United States
over a plot to blow up the World Trade Center.
The Muslim Brotherhood has described him as an "excellent
choice", saying al-Gamaa al-Islamiya's community ties will help
improve law and order in the area.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan, Alison Williams and Lisa Shumaker)