Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi has said an upcoming and widely-expected government reshuffle may affect three ministries, including Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s Defense Ministry, in another strong hint that Sisi intends to run for president.
Government Spokesman Hani Salah refused to confirm that a cabinet reshuffle was imminent, but told Asharq Al-Awsat: “If a reshuffle takes place, it will be at a suitable time decided by the prime minister after consulting the president, and in a manner which serves the interests of the country.”
Beblawi told Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that he would make limited changes to his government, and that the changes would involve three ministries: Military Production, International Cooperation, and Defense.
The former two ministerial portfolios are vacant, with the death last month of the minister of military production and the resignation of the minister of international cooperation.
Field Marshal Sisi, who is currently the head of the Ministry of Defense, will need to retire from the military if he wishes to run for president in the next round of elections, which are expected to be held in the next few months.
Media reports in Egypt have said Beblawi’s statement was tantamount to announcing Sisi’s candidacy. The prime minster denied this and said: “This issue will be decided only by the defense minister according to his vision and the nation’s higher interests.”
Egyptian interim President Adly Mansour and Field Marshal Sisi held separate talks in Cairo with visiting Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan on Saturday.
Spokesman Hani Salah said discussions with the Libyan premier included issues related to Egyptian workers in Libya, the participation of Egyptian companies in the rebuilding of Libya, and borders security operations concerned with the movement of people and the smuggling of arms.
Spokesman for the Egyptian presidency, Ihab Badawi, said President Mansour assured the Libyan premier that Egyptian diplomats who were withdrawn from Tripoli following the kidnapping of five diplomats in Libya last week would return soon, and that Egypt was eager to develop its relations with Libya in the political, economic, cultural and investment fields, in order to achieve the objectives of the Egyptian and Libyan revolutions.
Zeidan said Libya was also eager to maintain and develop its relations with Egypt, especially in the rebuilding of Libya following the revolution.
The meeting also discussed a number of issues of mutual concern at regional and international level, including Egypt’s membership of the African Union, which was suspended by the organization following the toppling of former President Mohamed Mursi, currently on trial in Cairo.
Egyptian Armed Forces spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohamed Ali confirmed that Field Marshal Sisi held a meeting with Prime Minister Zeidan and the Libyan delegation.
He said: “The meeting discussed bilateral relations between Egypt and Libya, and coordination and cooperation in the field of security in order to achieve the joint interests of both people in the next phase.”
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Araby also held a meeting in Cairo, on Saturday, with the Libyan prime minister. The meeting reportedly focused on developments in Libya and the rebuilding of state institutions, most importantly the election of a committee to draft Libya’s constitution on February 20.
The Arab League’s Deputy Secretary-General Ahmed Ben Hilli said in a news conference that the meeting also discussed preparations for the international conference in Rome on March 6–7 to provide support for Libya and help restore its security and stability and build its institutions, adding that the Arab League would participate in the conference with a high ranking delegation led by the secretary-general of the organization.
Hilli said the meeting also discussed preparations for a foreign minister-level Arab League Council at the start of next month and a summit in Kuwait at the end of March.