Egypt's Prime Minister Resigns Egypt's Interim Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq has resigned, meeting a key demand of pro-democracy protesters still rallying in the streets of Cairo. Shafiq — a former Air Force commander — was appointed by ousted President Hosni Mubarak. It was one of the president's last acts before he resigned from the presidency.
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Egypt's Prime Minister Resigns

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Egypt's Prime Minister Resigns

Egypt's Prime Minister Resigns

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Egypt's military rulers today removed the country's prime minister. He had been appointed by President Hosni Mubarak shortly before Mubarak stepped down last month. The ouster of Ahmed Shafiq was a key demand of protestors, who want all remnants of the old regime purged. The Egyptian military also tried appeasing the opposition by replacing Shafiq with a favorite of the protestors.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is Cairo and she filed this report.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: The new Prime Minister is Essam Sharaf, who was a former transportation minister under Mubarak. The Egyptian military announced the appointment on its Facebook page and website. Sharaf, a civil engineer who earned his master and doctoral degrees at Purdue University, had endeared himself to protestors by visiting them in Cairo's Tahrir, or Liberation, Square that became the epicenter of the revolution.

Historian Mahmoud Sabit believes it was no accident Sharaf was appointed the day before another large protest is expected in the square, following Friday prayers.

Mr. MAHMOUD SABIT (Historian): Well, it becomes a pattern.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SABIT: They see what they can do before the following Friday to appease the populace, you know.

NELSON: He adds the military had little choice but to sack Ahmed Shafiq because he lost all credibility during a controversial appearance last night on a popular talk show, in which he defended Egypt's hated state security agency, among other missteps. The plainclothes security force is blamed for some of the worst human rights violations during Mubarak's rule.

But if the military's aim was to persuade protestors to stay home, it didn't seem to be working.

(Soundbite of chanting protestors)

NELSON: Many who gathered in Tahrir Square hours after the new prime minister was announced, vowed to continue their vigil, like 27-year-old Mohammad Sada Abdul Hamid(ph).

Mr. MOHAMMAD SADA ABDUL HAMID (Protestor): (Through Translator) Essam Sharaf is not a good choice, because he was a former transportation minister in a country that has major transportation problems and too many accidents.

NELSON: Sharaf quit his post five years ago after a series of deadly train crashes blamed on government negligence. Even protestors who are thrilled to have someone in charge who was not part of Mubarak's last days in office, said they won't stop speaking out.

Mona Seif is an Egyptian activist and blogger.

Ms. MONA SEIF (Activist/Blogger): Even the youth coalition had issued a statement, basically saying that they are still calling for the demonstrations, that this is just a (unintelligible) the removal of Shafiq, but also to stress the delivery of the rest of their demands. So this will be all tomorrow.

NELSON: Those demands include removing what's left of Mubarak's cabinet, releasing political prisoners, dismantling the hated state security agency, and ending a three-decade-old state of emergency that allowed Egyptian security forces to act with impunity.

Historian Sabit says he also hopes Sharaf will appoint a cabinet that finally gets Egypt back on track.

Mr. SABIT: Having a transitional period under men who are almost administrators will work, unless there's some crisis or something. We need the routine of government at the moment.

NELSON: One of Sharaf's main challenges will be to revive an economy hit hard by the protests. The stock market has been closed for more than a month and tourists are largely staying away. Activists, meanwhile, are calling on the new prime minister to join them in the square tomorrow.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.

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