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Morsi Expands Brotherhood Influence in Egyptian Cabinet

  • VOA News

In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, President Mohammed Morsi, center, meets with his Cabinet including new ministers at the presidential palace in Cairo, January 6, 2013.

In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, President Mohammed Morsi, center, meets with his Cabinet including new ministers at the presidential palace in Cairo, January 6, 2013.

Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi has expanded the number of Muslim Brotherhood ministers in his Cabinet as part of a reshuffle aimed at improving the government's handling of an economic crisis.

Ten Egyptian ministers were sworn in on Sunday, three of them members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement. A Brotherhood spokesman said the reshuffle increases the number of Brotherhood Cabinet ministers from five to eight.

Morsi also appointed a Brotherhood-allied expert in Islamic finance as the new finance minister. El-Morsi Hegazy replaces former finance minister Mumtaz el-Said, whom the Brotherhood had accused of being too close to the Egyptian military, which ruled the country for more than a year before handing power to Morsi in June.

In another key appointment, Morsi named a new interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, to replace Ahmed Gamal Eddin, who was criticized for his handling of last month's violent street protests for and against Egypt's new Islamist-backed constitution.

Morsi promised a Cabinet reshuffle last month as part of a plan to restore confidence in the economy, which has seen a slump in foreign tourism and investment due to political instability since the 2011 ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising.

Egypt also has been suffering a currency crisis that has seen the Egyptian pound weaken to eight-year lows against the dollar. Egypt's central bank has spent billions of dollars to support the value of the pound since 2011, leaving its foreign reserves at what it calls a "critical" level. In a report Sunday, the central bank said Egypt's foreign reserves were just above $15 billion in December, a slight decline from the previous month.

Morsi also is under pressure to raise taxes and introduce other austerity measures in exchange for a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. An IMF official is due in Cairo on Monday to discuss terms of the loan with Egyptian officials. Egypt reached a preliminary agreement on the loan in November but delayed finalizing the deal last month as it focussed on dealing with the protests over the constitution.

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