|Egyptian housing minister to form new government||
Egypt's outgoing housing minister Ibrahim Mahlab told state-run Al-Ahram newspaper on Tuesday that he had been asked to form a new government, Al-Ahram reported on its website, according to Reuters.
The choice of defense minister may hold clues as to when army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will announce a widely expected bid for the presidency. Sisi must vacate the post of defense minister, which he held in the outgoing cabinet, in order to run in the vote that could be held as soon as April.
Mahlab is a civil engineer who was formerly head of one of Egypt's biggest construction firms. He was also an official in deposed President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party.
Speaking to Al-Ahram after meeting interim President Adly Mansour, Mahlab said he would immediately begin consultations on appointing a new cabinet.
Beblawi's government resigned on Monday. It took office in July after the army removed President Mohammad Morsi from power.
Many saw the move as paving the way for military chief and Defense Minister Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi to run for the presidency and to defuse mounting popular anger at the government's perceived failure to revive the economy and improve services.
Sissi must leave the military if he is to run for president.
During Beblawi's tenure, the state cracked down hard on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. Rights groups criticized his government for crushing dissent through other moves, including a law imposing tough penalties on people who protest illegally.
Beblawi's government received billions of dollars in aid from Persian Gulf states hostile to the Brotherhood but was criticized by analysts for failing to take quick steps towards reforming an economy burdened by a massive state subsidy bill.
Besides serving as chairman and CEO of Arab Contractors Company, Mahlab has also worked in Saudi Arabia, according to a curriculum vitae distributed by the Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities.
220 Morsi supporters jailed
Meanwhile, Egyptian courts have sentenced 220 mostly supporters of the ousted Islamist president to up to seven years imprisonment for instigating violence and holding protests without a permit.
The three Alexandria courts issued verdicts in separate cases on Tuesday, all related to protests held by mostly Morsi supporters that descended into violence last summer.
Former Islamist lawmaker Sobhi Saleh was among 134 who were sentenced to three years prison and fined nearly $7,000 each for inciting violence and holding protests in August. The month was Egypt's bloodiest in decades as security forces unleashed a heavy crackdown on protest camps that hundreds dead.
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