New Egyptian government sworn in before Field Marshal Tantawi

Prime Minister Sharaf stresses government’s commitment to signed agreements, treaties

Sharaf in Tahrir square: People is the source of my legitimacy, we must embark on struggle for construction

Saudi Arabia hails Egyptian armed forces’ role in managing incidents

Turkish, French. U.S. support for Egypt

General amnesty in Syria

State security apparatus in Tunisia dismantled

New Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said on Monday he would work to get Egypt's economy back on its feet after weeks of protests and political turmoil, speaking after a ceremony to swear him and his new cabinet into office.

The cabinet reshuffle is the latest reform to meet the demands of protesters calling for a purge of officials linked to Hosni Mubarak, who was forced from the presidency on February 11.

Analysts said the new government would have to tread a fine line as it works to meet the high expectations of newly empowered Egyptian workers while restarting an economy that nearly ground to a halt during weeks of protests.

"Our priorities are to regain security and stability as fast as possible and to get the wheel of production rolling again," Sharaf told reporters.

In the wake of protests, workers have gone on strike for better pay, while high prices that drove people to the streets remain high, the stock market has stayed closed after more than a month and the Egyptian pound has weakened.

"We confirm that Egypt's economy is a free economy but within the framework of social justice," Sharaf added. "The economy will come back stronger than it was before."

New interior, foreign affairs and justice ministers were sworn in, key portfolios that were important targets for reformists.

Until Sharaf's appointment, those posts had stayed in the hands of ministers appointed when Mubarak was still in power.

Nabil Elaraby, a former International Court of Justice judge, was named minister of foreign affairs, replacing Ahmed Abul-Gheit, the face of Mubarak's foreign policy since 2004 and the most prominent minister to hang onto his post this long.

Mansour el-Essawy, appointed interior minister, is not viewed as being part of the inner circle of former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli, who held the post for 13 years until Mubarak removed him from his job last month, analysts said.

The newly named justice minister, Mohammed al-Guindy, has pledged to fight corruption and run presidential and parliamentary elections overseen by the judiciary, sidelined when Mubarak was in power and elections were routinely rigged.

"The new cabinet has a grace period of about a month," said Ezzedin Choukri-Fishere, professor of political science at the American University in Cairo. "It comes on a wave of goodwill and optimism, because everyone wants this government to work."

"But at the same time, they have a grace period that is very short because the expectations are so high. If they don't start the key work soon, these expectations will be dashed and turned into something else."

One of the main challenges will be redeploying the police force, which largely disintegrated in the early days of the uprising and is tarnished by a reputation for brutality that helped fuel the protests.

Essawy vowed on Sunday that he would work to improve the image of the police force and shrink the role of the state security apparatus, hated by many Egyptians particularly after their conduct during the demonstrations.

Protesters have stormed state security offices in recent days to press their demands for change.

Egypt's military rulers designated Sharaf prime minister last week, replacing his predecessor Ahmed Shafiq, a retired air commander seen as having been close to Mubarak.

Sharaf, told tens of thousands of activists and demonstrators gathered in central Cairo's Tahrir square on Friday that the people are the source of his legitimacy.

"I derive my legitimacy from you," he told the packed square. "There is no other place one can derive determination and strong will from," he said, referring to the square, which has been the focal point of calls for reform and change.

Sharaf, in his second day on the job, was appointed by the armed forces, now in control of the country, after opposition forces recommended his name to the post.

He takes over after Ahmed Shafiq resigned following weeks of protests, with activists demanding a purge of all ministers appointed by the former president Hosny Mubarak.

Sharaf, a professor of civil engineering at Cairo University, is known among opposition circles for his "good reputation" and was reported to have been seen protesting in Tahrir Square against Mubarak prior to his resignation on February 11, after nearly 30 years of rule.

On Friday, the thousands who headed to Tahrir Square were celebrating Sharaf's appointment.

They also continued their calls for the release of political prisoners and want the military to dissolve the controversial State Security Investigations Service, which was responsible for much of the deadly violence against protesters that left over 350 people dead.

"I pray to see Egypt a free country, where expressing opinion does not lead to prison and where security serves the people. Help us reach this," Sharaf said, as the crowd shouted "the people want to bring down the State Security Service."

After Sharaf finished his speech, he was carried over the shoulders of several demonstrators. He then walked in the square, amid chants, such as "Lift your head up high, you are Egyptian" and "Tahrir salutes you Essam."

A number of activists are now calling on Sharaf to oversee the coming period of transition to democracy. They are calling for the disbanding of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, the removal of a controversial emergency law, and the formation of a committee draft a new constitution, rather than just amend the current one.

The Higher Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces suspended the constitution after it took control of the country and promised to hold elections within six months. A judicial committee was formed to oversee amendments of only six articles in the constitution.

Meanwhile, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, Commander in Chief and Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt, received Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs who is currently on a visit to Egypt.

During the meeting, the bilateral relations and the political, economic and security influence in Egypt and the kingdom's role in contributing to cross Egypt the current circumstances and the return of stability were discussed.

In a statement following the meeting, Prince Saud Al-Faisal expressed the appreciation of the Government and people of the Kingdom to the Egyptian armed forces on their performance in managing the current events in Egypt and its implications, wishing them success in the coming period.

The meeting was attended by a number of senior Saudi and Egyptian officials.

On the other hand, Turkey's President Abdullah Gul said after meeting Egypt's military rulers on Thursday he was convinced the army was serious about piloting a democratic transition following the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

"I have closely observed that Marshal Tantawi and his friends have seen the expectations and demands of the Egyptian people and youth and they say they will do what is needed in a short period of time," Gul said after meeting Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council that took charge in Egypt. "We believe that this process of transition should end in a way to satisfy all the expectations of Egyptian people. Egypt should switch to a democratic, parliamentary and constitutional system and Egypt should become the strongest state in the region and its people the happiest people, after the process is over."

Gul arrived in Cairo as Egypt's Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq resigned and a former transport minister was picked to appoint a new government after pro-democracy activists demanded a purge of Mubarak's old guard from the cabinet.

Shafiq was appointed prime minister by Mubarak in his final days in office before he was ousted on Feb. 11 after an 18-day popular uprising which shook the Middle East. There have since been protests and political pressure for Shafiq to step down.

Non-Arab Turkey, a stable and vibrant economy, is often held up in the West as an example of how democracy can flourish in the Muslim world.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party, widely expected to win a third term in power at elections in June, has moved from its Islamist roots into an electable mainstream party, operating within a secular constitution.

Gul also said Islamic countries needed deep-rooted reforms.

"In order for a country to be strong it is not enough to have a strong army. You need a strong political system supported by the people and participatory democracy and a strong economy," he told a news conference at the Turkish embassy in Cairo.

Gul, who was accompanied by Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, held talks with leaders from a wide spectrum of Egyptian political groups, including Mohamed Badie, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's best organized political force.

Among other leaders he was expected to meet were political reform campaigner Mohamed ElBaradei and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, who has yet to make a formal decision whether he will run for the Egyptian presidency.

Gul said the people he met told him that Turkey was a "great source of inspiration" for its political and economic reforms, and that Turkey could share its experience with Egyptians.

In Turkey, the powerful military has ousted four governments since 1960, and has acted as a final arbiter of power in a parliamentary system that has prevailed since the 1950s.

Reforms aimed at winning European Union membership have curbed the generals' power in recent years.

Turkey has become a bigger player in the Middle East, emboldened by its booming economy and a more Islamic identity under Erdogan's AK Party.

In Cairo, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Sunday that Europe and France cannot allow "the criminal folly" of Muammar Gaddafi in dealing with Libya's uprising, affirming his country's commitment to Egypt.

Juppe, speaking to the French community in Egypt during a visit to Cairo, said he would raise the issue of Libya with the head of the Cairo-based Arab League, Amr Moussa.

He warned however that any international military intervention in Libya would have "absolutely negative" effects.

"France, as well as many of its partners, is not in favor of any Western military intervention in Libya, which would have absolutely negative effects," Juppe told a news conference.

Juppe said his visit to the Egyptian capital, his first official trip outside Europe since he took office on Tuesday, shows "France's commitment in the face of extraordinary upheavals" in the Arab world.

He also delivered a letter from French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the institution to which Mubarak handed over power on February 11 when he resigned.

France's top diplomat said he told Tantawi that France "trusts" the military council to "lead the process of political transition" in Egypt.

He rejected criticism of a tardy reaction in Paris to the Arab uprisings, saying "these revolutions took us all by surprise."

"It is not correct to say that we took too long to react" because "we quickly declared our availability to support the march to freedom" of these countries, he added.

The French government has come under fire for failing to foresee revolts erupting in the Arab world and for having maintained privileged ties with former presidents Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak who were both toppled in popular uprisings.

"We perhaps allowed ourselves to be blinded when we were told that the regimes in place were the only bastions against terrorism," Juppe said of France's support to the regimes of Mubarak and Ben Ali.

Juppe said Egypt, the most populous country in the region, is "a key nation for the future of the Arab world" and "is giving the example, without being overly optimistic, of what can be a controlled liberation."

But he also cautioned "nothing is a given."

"We are of course confident but the worst of outcomes has not been excluded. As we watch what is going on in Libya today, we see clearly that this transition can be painful."

He denounced the "criminal folly" of Gaddafi and said France and Europe would not tolerate such behavior in dealing with the uprising.

At a restaurant near Cairo's emblematic Tahrir Square, he met several members of Egypt's youth coalition, which includes members of the Muslim Brotherhood, that helped to overturn Mubarak.

Juppe said public opinion of the Brotherhood needs to be "informed and thorough."

Juppe paid tribute to the "sense of responsibility" of Egyptian youths, but warned them "what awaits you is more complicated than what you have already achieved," - a reference to the transition under the army's leadership.

Author Khaled al-Khamissi, who attended the meeting, criticized how France, during Mubarak's rule, "had relations primarily with the political system, refusing to have a real exchange with civil society."

"This was a catastrophe for its foreign policy," said Khamissi.

"Today there might be a new page that includes contact with Egypt's civil society," he added.

Juppe, a former French prime minister, was named foreign minister on February 27 by President Nicolas Sarkozy in place of Michele Alliot-Marie, who was tainted by her ties to the former Tunisian regime.

In Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday pardoned criminals serving time in jail for minor crimes as well as some elderly and ill prisoners, official Syrian news agency Sana reported.

The pardon comes on the eve of the 48th anniversary of Syria’s ruling Baath Party coming to power on March 8, 1963. The presidential decree, which contains various caveats, “applies to those who committed minor offences before March 7 as well as to the elderly and sick,” Sana said.

“The decree does not apply to political detainees,” said Abdel Karim Rehaoui, president of the Syrian Human Rights League, who estimates that several thousand people could be included in the pardon.

Rehaoui expressed hope that this “positive step is followed soon by a general amnesty including political detainees and prisoners of conscience” in Syria’s jails.

Tunisia's interim authorities on Monday named a new government and disbanded the feared state security apparatus, notorious for human rights abuses under the ousted autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Seeking to assert their authority and gain legitimacy in the eyes of protesters who forced Ben Ali to flee on January 14, the caretaker authorities are attacking the remaining vestiges of his 23-year rule, one by one.

Prime Minister Beji Caid Sebsi unveiled a new cabinet of technocrats rather than career politicians, none of whom had served in previous governments under Ben Ali.

He told a press conference the ministers had been chosen in the public interest to see through a delicate transition until Tunisians elect a national constituent assembly on July 24.

"This is a temporary government which will be in office for only 4-1/2 months, to save the country from the grave situation it finds itself in," he said.

Shortly after the cabinet line-up was announced, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Ben Ali's political police and state security apparatus had been dissolved -- a core demand behind the popular uprising.

"I can confirm that it was decided to terminate them. We will take other decisions that will please the people," he said. The twin security organs had functioned as a domestic spy agency with wide powers to suppress opposition to the regime.

Their officers monitored opposition politicians and journalists, could arrest people at will, and were accused by rights groups of torturing detainees.

More recently, many demonstrators had said state security agents were infiltrating their protests to stir up violence and trigger a backlash against the uprising.

"It is a dream come true for everyone," said Ali Larayedh, a member of the moderate Islamist Ennahda movement, which has just been allowed back on the political stage after a two-decade ban.

"People have suffered because of them. They wrecked politics, the media and the judiciary in this country," Larayedh, who said he himself had spent 14 years as a political prisoner, told Reuters.

Tunisia has been struggling to restore stability since Ben Ali's departure nearly two months ago.

The protests that led to his overthrow have provided the inspiration for uprisings in other parts of the Arab world, but repeated outbreaks of violence have threatened to derail Tunisia's own transition toward democracy.

Caid Sebsi, 84, was appointed on February 27 after two previous caretaker administrations collapsed under pressure from protesters demanding that Ben Ali's old guard, including his long-time premier Mohamed Ghannouchi, be purged from government.

The new premier said his priority was security.

"Without it we can't have economic development or a political agenda. We want foreigners to visit. People do not invest their money if they are not convinced the situation is calm," he said.

None of the ministers in the 22-strong new government will be allowed to stand in future elections.

Asked if protesters would be satisfied with the latest concessions, Caid Sebsi noted that the Tunis square where demonstrators had staged sit-ins until Friday was now empty.

"They are not there anymore, they left spontaneously and that proves that they trust me. I will not betray their trust."