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Plans to revive economy

CAIRO — Egypt’s new interim prime minister reached for liberals today to revive a shattered economy as he began forming a government to heal a nation bitterly divided by bloodshed a week after the elected president was overthrown.

Egyptians hoped the start of the Ramadan Muslim fasting month would cool passions that have raised animosity to a level unseen in the modern history of the most populous Arab state.

Hazem el-Beblawi, a 76-year-old economist and former finance minister named to head the cabinet on Tuesday, told Reuters he would start selecting ministers and would begin by meeting liberal politicians Mohamed ElBaradei and Ziad Bahaa el-Din.

Both are senior leaders of the National Salvation Front, the main secularist group that led protests against Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, toppled by the army last week after millions took to the streets against him.

Both are also outspoken supporters of a stalled $4.8 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund, which would require Egypt to make politically sensitive reforms to its ruinous subsidies of food and fuel.

Beblawi accepted that it would be a challenge to find a cabinet lineup with universal support: “I don’t believe that anything can have unanimous approval,” he said.

“Of course we respect the public opinion and we try to comply with the expectation of the people but there is always a time of choice. There is more than one alternative, you cannot satisfy all of the people.”

Beblawi was named prime minister by the military-backed interim head of state installed after the army removed Mursi. ElBaradei, a former UN diplomat, has been named vice president. Bahaa el-Din, a former head of Egypt’s investment authority, has been touted for senior posts.

Thousands of Mursi supporters have been holding a vigil near a mosque in northeast Cairo for a week, demanding his reinstatement. At least 55 of them were killed on Monday in the worst violence in more than a year, when troops opened fire near a barracks where his supporters believe he is being held. (Reuters)

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