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Egypt's President-Elect Morsi Starts to Form Government

by VOA News June 25, 2012

Egypt's president-elect Mohamed Morsi has started forming what he pledges will be an inclusive government, one day after becoming the country's first democratically elected civilian president.

Following his election Sunday over former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, Morsi now is focusing on building his civilian administration - including what he promises to be a diverse range of vice presidents.

The Islamist president-elect faces the difficult task of healing national divisions and convincing all Egyptians, including religious minorities and women, that their interests will be equally protected. Already, he has resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party, in a gesture to other parties with whom he hopes to form a unity government.

But questions remain over just how much power Egypt's post-revolution presidency holds. Despite promising to hand power to an elected president by the end of this month, Egypt's ruling military council has taken recent steps stripping the presidency of most of its authority. The council has taken for itself key executive powers and claimed control of legislative affairs after the Muslim Brotherhood-led lower house of parliament was dissolved earlier this month.

The Brotherhood has rejected the military's actions, and Morsi's supporters have vowed to stay in Cairo's Tahrir Square until the powers are restored to the president and legislature, raising the prospect of a power struggle between the Islamists and the generals.

Alongside pursuing national unity, Morsi has pledged to uphold Egypt's standing international agreements. Chief among them is Egypt's peace treaty with Israel from 1979. Egypt was the first Arab nation to enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and the Muslim Brotherhood has long been a critic of it.

An Iranian news agency, Fars, on Monday quoted Morsi as saying a closer relationship with Tehran would create a "strategic balance" in the region. But Iran's official news agency IRNA later termed the Fars report "a fabrication." Egypt and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since 1980.

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