Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—William Burns, deputy US Secretary of State, arrived in Cairo yesterday for discussions with Egypt’s new leaders in what was considered as the first positive US move towards the new leaders of Egypt.
Burns met with interim president Adly Mansour, defense minister Fd. Mar. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and acting premier Hazem El-Beblawi, among others.
Visiting Beblawi first, Burns insisted that the Obama administration is keen to see a national consensus government in Egypt which can meet the public’s ambitions, according to an Egyptian government source.
“[The visit] underscores US support for the Egyptian people, an end to all violence, and a transition leading to an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government,” Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the US secretary of state, said prior to Burns’s visit.
Representatives of the Tamarod (Rebellion) movement and the Muslim Brotherhood, which have taken opposing positions on the toppling of President Mursi, are understood to have both refused to meet with Burns.
In a step that would increase the pressure on the Brotherhood, Egyptian banks yesterday froze assets of the group’s leaders and some of its loyalists, including Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, deputy supreme guide Khairat El-Shater, secretary-general Mahmud Ezzat, former parliament speaker Mohamed Saad Katatni, and other senior Islamist figures, such as Essam El-Erian, Mahdi Akef, Hazem Abu Ismail and Tariq El-Zumar.
Meanwhile, talks are underway to form Egypt’s new cabinet, which is expected to be sworn in on Tuesday or Wednesday.
It is almost certain now that five ministries—culture, information, environment, health and population—will be assigned to female ministers.
It has been reported that Dr. Inas Abdel Dayem will be the first woman to run the Ministry of Culture. Ironically, Abdel Dayem was sacked as the head of the Opera House by the former minister of culture in Mursi’s government.
Abdel Dayem, who holds PhD from the École Normale de Musique in Paris, was reported as saying: “I am very happy to have been nominated for this post because I have been wronged by those who exploit religion,” a reference to the Brotherhood.
Social networking websites were abuzz yesterday with posts and comments cheering the appointment of the Abdel Dayem as the first woman to run the ministry of culture in Egypt.
Other female candidates include Dr. Dalia El-Saadani for the Ministry of Research, Dr. Layla Rashed Iskandar for the Ministry of Environment, and Dr. Maha El-Ribat for the Ministry of Health and Population.
In other news, violence continued in the Sinai peninsula, the sensitive area along the Egyptian–Israeli border, with four confirmed civilian deaths and dozens of injuries.
While Israel voiced its concern over the deteriorating security in the peninsula, the Egyptian military insisted yesterday that it continues to increase pressure on the terrorist groups and that it has “destroyed 23 fuel tanks and eight tunnels along the borders with Gaza in the last 48 hours.”
It has been reported that in the last ten days in Sinai, 25 attacks on military and security points have been staged by unknown assailants, killing more than 15, including military and security troops and officers.
In a statement, the Egyptian Armed Forces’ spokesman said yesterday: “At 01.00 am on Monday, a terrorist group launched an RPG at a police vehicle on Arish–Berhefn Road; however, it hit a bus carrying workers by mistake.”
“The attack left three people killed and 16 injured,” the ministry of health announced.
For his part, Benny Gantz, the Israel Defence Forces’ chief of staff, was reported by Jerusalem Post as saying that: “Israel is watching closely the developments in Sinai . . . We do not know what will happen in two weeks’ time in Egypt.”
There were also clashes in Cairo on Monday night and Tuesday morning between security forces and pro-Mursi demonstrators, after protesters blocked the city’s October 6 Bridge.
Seven people were reported to have been killed in the city in total, two close to the bridge and five people in other clashes in the Giza district.