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Egypt's new PM in change pledge

Egypt's new prime minister has vowed before thousands of demonstrators in Cairo to do everything he can to meet their demands for political change.

Essam Sharaf pleaded with them to turn their attention to "rebuilding" the country.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Armed Forces Council that took control of the country from ousted president Hosni Mubarak said a referendum on constitutional changes to allow for competitive parliamentary and presidential elections will be held on March 19.

The new prime minister was picked by Egypt's military rulers on Thursday to replace Ahmed Shafiq, the last premier to be named by Mubarak.

A former transport minister, Mr Sharaf endeared himself to the protesters when he joined the demonstrations that forced Mubarak to resign. He made his address at Tahrir Square, the protests' central gathering point.

"I draw will and determination from here," he told the estimated 10,000 demonstrators. "I will do my utmost to realise your demands," he said, pledging to step down if he fails.

Besides Mr Shafiq's resignation, the revolt's leaders want Mubarak's National Democratic Party dissolved along with the hated State Security Agency blamed for some of the worst human rights violations during Mubarak's rule. Other demands include the prosecution of security officials behind the deaths of protesters and the release of political prisoners.

The constitutional changes to be voted on open presidential elections to competition and impose a two-term limit on future presidents - a dramatic shift from a system that allowed Mubarak to rule for three decades.

The proposals address a number of the demands of the reform movement. But many say the changes don't go far enough.

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