CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s prime minister-designate vowed Friday before thousands of demonstrators at a central Cairo square to do everything he could to meet their demands and pleaded with them to turn their attention to “rebuilding” the country.
Essam Sharaf was picked by Egypt’s military rulers on Thursday to replace Ahmed Shafiq as prime minister.
Shafiq was the last premier to be named by Hosni Mubarak, who stepped down Feb. 11 in the face of massive anti-government protests demanding an end to his 30-year rule.
A former transport minister, Sharaf endeared himself to the protesters when he joined the demonstrations that forced Mubarak to resign. His made his address Friday at Tahrir Square, the protests’ epicenter.
“I draw will and determination from here,” he told the estimated 10,000 demonstrators. “I will do my utmost to realize your demands,” he said, pledging to step down if he fails.
Shafiq, a U.S.-educated civil engineer, served in the Cabinet for 18 months between 2004 and 2005.
His appearance at the square on Friday — he was carried on the shoulders of demonstrators to and from the podium — was the latest evidence of the power retained by the youth groups nearly a month after they ousted Mubarak. Sharaf’s government will serve in a caretaker capacity until parliamentary elections are held.
However, Sharaf declined to take an oath of office before the demonstrators as they demanded and left the square amid chants of “Swear! Swear!”
Besides Shafiq’s resignation, the revolt’s leaders want Mubarak’s National Democratic Party dissolved along with the hated State Security Agency blamed for some of the worst human rights violations during Mubarak’s rule. Other demands include the prosecution of security officials behind the deaths of protesters and the release of political prisoners.
“I am here because I get my legitimacy from you,” Sharaf, in a gray business suit but no tie, told the demonstrators. He called on the protesters to turn their attention to “rebuilding Egypt.”
“I pray to God that I see an Egypt where free opinions are voiced outside (prison) cells and security agencies are in the service of the nation.”