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New cabinet sworn in for Egypt

Egypt's military rulers have sworn in a new cabinet that includes new faces in key ministries, responding to protesters' demands that the new government be free of stalwarts of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

The new cabinet, headed by prime minister Essam Sharaf, a US-educated civil engineer, is expected to be approved by the pro-reform groups that led the 18-day uprising that forced Mubarak to step down on February 11.

State TV showed members of the government taking an oath during today's swearing-in-ceremony before the head of Egypt's armed forces supreme council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

The caretaker government's main job and challenge will be to help steer the country through reforms and toward free elections.

Among the most significant changes in the cabinet designed to meet protesters' demands, Mr Sharaf named a new interior minister. Major General Mansour el-Essawy, a former Cairo security chief, replaces Mahmoud Wagdi, who held the post for less than a month. The interior ministry is in charge of the security forces.

Mr El-Essawy, according to a report by the state news agency, pledged after meeting Mr Sharaf that he would work to restore security and reduce the role of the hated state security agency.

Protesters have over the past few days rallied outside about a dozen state security offices across the nation, in many cases storming the buildings, including the agency's main headquarters in the Cairo suburb of Nasr City. The protests followed reports that agents were burning and shredding documents to destroy evidence that would incriminate them in possible cases of human rights abuses.

On Sunday, soldiers fired in the air and used stun guns to disperse hundreds of protesters who attempted to storm the state security offices inside the interior ministry in downtown Cairo. The protesters said they wanted to see for themselves whether the building had secret cells and to stop officers from destroying documents.

The state security agency, which employs about 100,000 of Egypt's 500,000-strong security forces, is blamed for the worst human rights abuses against Mubarak's opponents.

Dismantling the agency has been a key demand of the protest groups that led the uprising.

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