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Egypt gets reformist prime minister, and minister of antiquities resigns

Essam Sharaf, a pro-science reformist, is to be Egypt’s new prime minister, it was announced yesterday. Mohammed Yahia, our man in Cairo at Nature Middle East was in Tahrir Square today to hear Sharaf speak and has blogged the story here.

Sharif takes over from Ahmed Shafiq, the prime minister appointed by president Hosni Mubarak at the end of January, barely two weeks before Mubarak was ousted on 12 February. Power then passed to the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces. Shafiq resigned yesterday following huge protests against both him and the Mubarak-appointed government. The military said that a new government would be created. This will probably happen over the weekend.


Meanwhile, Zahi Hawass, Mubarak’s appointment as minister of antiquities in Shafiq’s government, says that he will not take a position in the new government – which would be a de facto resignation. Hawass claimed that he was leaving because the security services could no longer adequately assure the protection of archaeological sites and museums under his jurisdiction.

In a post to his blog yesterday, he asserted that “Since Mubarak’s resignation, looting has increased all over the country, and our antiquities are in grave danger from criminals trying to take advantage of the current situation.” He listed a couple of dozen mostly undated examples of recent looting and damage, although some seem to date from before Mubarak’s fall. There has been further discussion of all this over at the Restore + Save the Egyptian Museum! Facebook page and at the Eloquent Peasant blog.

See also my recent coverage of the threat to Egypt‘s, and Libya‘s cultural heritage. And for our full coverage of current events in the Middle East and North Africa, see our special “The Arab Awakening.”

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