* Port manager cites national security reasons for switch
* Port is key installation in area with militant attacks
CAIRO, June 9 Egypt has transferred the assets
of the Al-Arish port in the Sinai Peninsula from a civilian-run
agency to the armed forces, citing national security reasons in
an area where militant attacks have increased in the past year.
The decision was made last week by then-interim President
Adly Mansour but only announced on Monday, a day after former
army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi - who ousted Islamist President
Mohamed Mursi last July - was sworn in as the new head of state.
The move seemed likely to reinforce critics' concern that
Egypt is returning to strongman rule three years after a popular
uprising raised hopes of democracy free from military influence.
An addendum to Thursday's official gazette declared that the
state's assets in the Al-Arish port and its administration were
transferred to the ministry of defence and war production from
the Port Authority of Port Said.
"Egypt's national security requires that the port be under
the control of the armed forces due to its sensitive location,"
the head of the Port Authority of Port Said, retired major
general Ahmed Sharaf, told Reuters by telephone.
The military could not be reached immediately for comment on
the port, a valuable installation in the Sinai Peninsula amid
the militant attacks on police and soldiers there.
Sharaf said the port's employees were working as usual but
said he did not know if the armed forces would supplement the
workers or replace them.
Sisi won the loyalty of state institutions and the media
after toppling Mursi, and much of his popularity stems from his
roots in the military, whose decades-long pattern of rule was
interrupted by the Muslim Brotherhood leader's year in office.
But his election also triggered fears among some Egyptians
that the military, with a budget shielded from public oversight
and a wide-ranging business empire, would continue its dominant
role in the country's economic and political life.
Sisi said during his campaign that he would not hesitate to
use the military to help rebuild an economy racked by three
years of political turmoil, which has driven away foreign
investors and tourists.
An army-linked company run by a retired army officer was
named on Saturday as the contractor for the first phase of a
UAE-funded project to build 25 wheat silos in Egypt.
(Reporting by Mostafa Hashem and Mohamed Abdellah; Writing by
Stephen Kalin; Editing by Tom Heneghan)