Sunday, July 17, 2011

Egypt's foreign minister resigns; Syrian opposition creates National Salvation Council

In the framework of the new pressure put by the protesters of Tahrir Square on the militairy leaders of  the SCAF and on the Egyptian government, minister of foreign affairs, Mohammed El-Orabi has resigned after a period of less than a month in function. El-Orabi previously served in the Egyptian embassy in Israel and as chief of the cabinet of the foreign minister in 2000 with Amr Moussa, currently a possible candidate for the presidency. He was also Egypt's ambassador of Egypt to Germany for six years.
Orabi's resignation does not come as a surprise as his nomination had been criticized from the beginning, because of the close ties he used to have with the regime of Mubarak. The writer Alaa al-Aswani earlier wrote about Al-Orabi (see this blog): 
Al-Orabi was one of the people closest to Mubarak and his family in whose honor he has articulated quite a collection of panegyrics and elegies. According to Al-Wafd newspaper, al-Orabi, while he was Egypt’s ambassador to Germany, stated: “I believe that Mubarak is an unprecedented leader, and that Egyptian history will not witness another leader like him.” He also said: “God favors Egypt because He gave her an extraordinary talent named Gamal Mubarak.” Al-Orabi is now minister of foreign affairs in the government of the revolution that has ousted his “unprecedented leader” and thrown the “extraordinary talent” Gamal Mubarak in prison. And al-Orabi is not an exceptional case within the current Egyptian government. Many of the current ministers were big supporters of Mubarak and they now make decisions in the new revolutionary government.
Orabi's resignation comes at a moment that prime minister Essam al-Sharaf is still consulting with various parties about more changes of his cabinet. Al-Ahram Online wrote that the official media said up to 15 ministers may be replaced in the cabinet reshuffle, with a focus on those with ties to Mubarak's three-decade rule. A few days ago already deputy prime minister Yehia Gamal resigned. And hours before Orabi's resignation Sharaf appointed veteran economist Hazem Beblawi (74) and Ali al-Silmi (75), a leader of the liberal Wafd party, as deputy prime ministers. Beblawi will now become finance minister, replacing Samir Radwan. Radwan, who resigned on Sunday, together with trade and industry Minister Samir el-Sayyad. Beblawi taught economics at several universities and is a banking expert. He also served as undersecretary of the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. He is a champion of free trade and one of the founding members of the new Social Democratic Party (which in fact is a liberal party). Beblawi will oversee economic policy in the new cabinet, while Silmi will handle 'democratic transition' matters, state media said.

About 350 exiled Syrian activists meeting in Istanbul on Saturday elected a 25-member council as they sought to declare unity in their intention to oust the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.This National Salvation Council, composed of independents, liberals, Islamists and members of other parties, will serve as an umbrella organization representing various factions of the Syrian opposition -- sometimes seen as fractured in their demands. It is yet not completely clear what the relationship is bewteen this council and the various opposition groups in Syria. A meeting of opponents of the regime that was planned to be held simultaneously in Damascus had to be cancelled as the meeting place a attacked by securituy forces.

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