Egypt’s new leaders signal commitment to civilian rule
CAIRO — The military and civilian leadership controlling Egypt in the wake of a popular revolution took several high-profile steps Monday to reassure Egyptians that it shared their fervor for change and to signal to foreign leaders that the move to full civilian rule would be rapid.
The prime minister of Britain, David Cameron, held talks here with the leaders, becoming the highest-ranking foreign official to visit Egypt since the longtime president, Hosni Mubarak, was ousted after 18 days of widespread protests.
At the same time, the country’s top prosecutor, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, said he would request that the Foreign Ministry ask governments to freeze any assets of Mubarak, his family and a handful of top associates. The Associated Press, citing unnamed security officials, said that Mubarak’s local assets were frozen as soon as his government fell.
Last week, the Swiss government, acting on its own, froze tens of millions of dollars belonging to Mubarak, his family or top associates. The fact that the caretaker Egyptian government had not requested the move prompted opposition members to express fears that it was shielding Mubarak, a former Air Force chief, and his relatives.
As the financial noose tightened around the Mubarak family, Cameron met with the country’s de facto leader, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and Ahmed Shafiq, the prime minister who heads the caretaker government.
He declined, however, to speak with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic group that was banned by the former government but is playing an active role in the new politics of Egypt. A Brotherhood representative called his decision to exclude the group “astonishing.”
In remarks to reporters, Cameron said he wanted to underscore that the Egyptian uprising was “not about extremists on the streets.”
William J. Burns, the U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, also landed in Cairo to meet with government officials and civilian representatives. In remarks delivered at the Arab League, he said the United States would seek to encourage, not dictate, a transition to a fully civilian government.
“Americans deeply respected and admired what Egypt has already achieved, but we know that the road ahead is not going to be easy,” Burns said.
While the military remains firmly in control, the caretaker government has begun taking steps toward a more inclusive political world, appointing an opposition member for the first time to a ministry post: Mounir Abdel Nour, the secretary-general of the Wafd Party, one of Egypt’s oldest political parties, was named the tourism minister for the interim government Sunday.