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Egyptian military agrees to make changes in Cabinet

Decision seen as victory for Islamist-led parliament

CAIRO – Egypt’s ruling military leader said Sunday that he would reshuffle the nation’s unpopular Cabinet, according to state media, in an attempt to calm growing anger in the Islamist-controlled parliament ahead of next month’s presidential elections.

The decision by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi came after parliament, nearly half of which is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, threatened to suspend legislative sessions for a week to protest Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri’s government. Parliament has been critical of the military-backed regime for months, but the generals have indicated they would not tolerate a no-confidence vote.

Egyptian media, quoting members of parliament, reported that the Cabinet would undergo a limited restructuring in coming days to include officials from the country’s dominant political forces. The Ganzouri government is widely mistrusted and viewed as a throwback to deposed President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

Parliament Speaker Saad Katatni said Tantawi phoned him to say that changes would be made to the government. Katatni characterized the call as restoring parliament’s “dignity.” Tantawi made no comment.

The conflict over the Cabinet is unfolding as the military and the Muslim Brotherhood are seeking to protect and expand their powers before the May 23-24 presidential election. The two sides had cooperated for months but relations have soured. Tantawi’s promise appears to give the legislature – and the Brotherhood – some of the legitimacy they crave.

The military’s choice of Ganzouri, a prime minister under Mubarak, was opposed by activists and protesters in November. The Brotherhood also criticized the selection but, at the time, was concentrating its efforts on campaigning for parliamentary elections. After winning the legislature, Islamists stepped up their attacks on the government, which they blamed for being a tool of the military and stifling parliament.