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Broadcast Journalist and Multimedia Producer based in Paris, France

Egypt’s new trade minister tells RFI he will not take office

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Egypt’s new Minister of Trade and Industry Ahmed Fekri Abdel Wahab told RFI on Tuesday that he would not be taking office after all. The announcement of his appointment had been met with some criticism over a possible conflict of interest between his private businesses and serving the needs of the Egyptian people.

Interview: Ahmed Fekri Abdel Wahab

Radio France Internationale

Abdel Wahab says it was “very wise” to turn down the trade and industry portfolio. He told RFI on Tuesday afternoon that he had written a statement indicating his position and “apologised” for not taking the job.

Egyptians are still waiting for the swearing-in of a new cabinet. The official state news agency reports that Prime Minister Essam Sharaf is spending Tuesday resting before the cabinet is finalised.

Abdel Wahab had been announced as the new minister on Monday. However some were quick to criticise his business connections. He is currently the chairman and managing director of the FAW Industrial Group, and is involved with the Egyptian Chinese Business Council and Egyptian Automotive Feeder Industries Association.

He admits that for many years Egypt has had businessmen in the cabinet and there has been some corruption. Although he says the general public are now putting all businessmen in “one basket” and labelling them as corrupt.

“This labelling has meant that I’ve come under a great deal of pressure, not for my own name, as a person, but just because I have the label of a businessman,” he says.

Abdel Wahab points out that Egypt still does not have any clear legislation on dealing with conflict of interests. He says that when he decided to take the ministerial position he outlined to the prime minister his businesses and any connections with the ministry.

“I put forth a mechanism to dispose of all my ownership in companies and to resign from the directorship of the boards that I’m involved in. To get a neutral committee to deal with these companies, and the decisions of this committee to be approved by the prime minister,” he says.

He concedes that his proposals have not been “clearly announced” and the Egyptian public does not “wish to see a business person in the cabinet”.

Abdel Wahab’s resignation before he had even taken his oath of office raises some questions about the formation of Sharaf’s so-called “Revolution Cabinet”.

The new cabinet was aimed at appeasing protesters who want a purge of the old regime and quicker reforms. But people are also unhappy with the appointment of Justice Minister Abdel Aziz al-Gindi, who is accused of delaying the trials of former regime officials including toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

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