Egypt fires finance, interior ministers before IMF visit

Updated 06 January 2013
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Egypt fires finance, interior ministers before IMF visit

CAIRO: Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Mursi fired his finance and interior ministers, cabinet sources said on Saturday, in a government reshuffle he had promised to assuage public anger at an economic crisis.
General Mohamed Ibrahim will replace Ahmed Gamal El-Din as interior minister and Al-Mursi Al-Sayed Hegazy takes the finance ministry job from Mumtaz Al-Saaed.
Egypt’s pound, 10 percent down since the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, lost more than 3 percent against the dollar in the week ending on Thursday, hitting a record low as fears grew over its rapidly shrinking foreign currency reserves.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it is sending its Middle East and Central Asia director, Masood Ahmed, to discuss a postponed $4.8 billion loan agreement and “possible IMF support for Egypt” with officials on Monday.
Loan talks were delayed last month at Cairo’s behest because of unrest in which 11 people died and hundreds were injured in anti-Mursi protests.
State-run Egyptian newspaper Akhbar Al-Youm said earlier on Saturday that Ahmed would meet Mursi, Prime Minister Hashim Kandil and other top officials.

Brotherhood ministers
State news agency MENA said 10 new ministers would be sworn in on Sunday for portfolios including electricity, environment, communications and transport.
According to cabinet sources, at least three of the new ministers are from Mursi’s Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood group.
“The Brotherhood new ministers are the ones handling the portfolios of transport, local development and supplies,” one cabinet source said.
A Brotherhood official, who asked not to be named, declined to say how many of the new ministers are from the Brotherhood but said that the finance minister is “considered close to us due to his field of experience in Islamic finance.”
A spokesman for the main opposition bloc, The National Salvation Front, said the group was still studying the new appointments and would give its reaction to the moves later.
Egypt’s opposition youth group, April Six, said in a statement that the changes were not enough and “will not solve (Egypt’s problems).”
Most opposition groups had asked for the whole cabinet to be sacked and replaced by one that would include more technocrats and represent all political parties.


Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Updated 53 min 11 sec ago
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Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

  • US Secretary of State laid out Trump administration’s strategy for constraining Iran’s nuclear program
  • US threatens "strongest sanctions in history" if Iranian government does not change course

WASHINGTON: The US told Iran on Monday to drop its nuclear ambitions and pull out of the Syrian civil war in a list of demands that marked a new hard-line against Tehran and prompted an Iranian official to warn that Washington seeks regime change.

Weeks after US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history,” setting Washington and Tehran on a deeper course of confrontation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded sweeping changes that would force Iran effectively to reverse years of its foreign policies.

“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran,” Pompeo said in his first major speech since becoming secretary of state.

“These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are done,” he added.

Pompeo took aim at Iran’s policy of expanding its influence in the Middle East through support for proxy armed groups in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

He warned that the US would “crush” Iranian operatives and allies abroad and told Tehran to pull out forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they back President Bashar Assad.

Iran is unlikely to accede to the US demands. Tension between the two countries has grown notably since Trump this month withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear program Washington would be ready to respond and said the administration would hold companies doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

“Our demands on Iran are not unreasonable: Give up your program,” Pompeo said, “Should they choose to go back, should they begin to enrich, we are fully prepared to respond to that as well,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Pompeo said if Iran made major changes, the US was prepared to ease sanctions, re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relations and support the country’s re-integration into the international economic system.

The speech did not explicitly call for regime change but Pompeo repeatedly urged the Iranian people not to put up with their leaders, specifically naming President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“At the end of the day the Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership. If they make the decision quickly, that would be wonderful, if they choose not to do so we will stay hard at this until we achieve the outcomes I set forward,” said Pompeo.