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Egyptian premier promises reforms

Egypt's prime minister has promised to fight corruption as a new Cabinet was sworn in under pressure from protesters demanding faster change and the removal of those tied to the ousted regime of president Hosni Mubarak.

Essam Sharaf also said he would work to end Egypt's hated emergency laws, which empower authorities to arrest and detain people without charge.

The new government comes as tensions rise in Egypt over what many perceive as the army's reluctance to act against the former regime.

Several hundred protesters have been camping out in Cairo's central Tahrir Square - the epicentre of the uprising which ended Mr Mubarak's rule on February 11 - to try to keep up pressure on the military council ruling the country.

The Cabinet is not expected to remain in office for more than four months, with parliamentary elections scheduled for October or November.

Mr Sharaf said he would root out the corruption and police abuse which were key factors in igniting the revolt against Mr Mubarak. He also said the interior ministry would allow human rights organisations to visit prisoners.

Activists welcomed some aspects of the new Cabinet, but said they did not expect it to be a powerful force for change since the military still has to sign off on anything it does. The new government has 12 new members and two deputy prime ministers. Thirteen other members kept their jobs.

"This is not a government of the revolution in any way," said Shadi Ghazaly Harb, a protest leader during the uprising who has founded a new political party. "This is a caretaker government and I expect from it the same weak performance we saw from the last government."

Mr Sharaf responded to such criticisms in his address.

"I and the members of the last government know well that the level of performance may not have been at the level that people hope for," he said. "We promise that in the next stage well revise these issues."


From Belfast Telegraph