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Egypt's president reshuffles top military council

28 February 2014, 14:20

Cairo - Egypt's interim president reshuffled the country's top military council on Thursday and installed the nation's military chief as its leader for the first time, part of a series of decrees that experts say gives the military more independence as its current leader is widely expected to run for president.

Adly Mansour's decree is part of series of declarations related to rearranging the country's sprawling security and military establishment nearly two months before presidential elections.

 It puts the military chief — now Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi — in charge of the top military council known as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Whoever succeeds al-Sisi, who will have to step down to run for president, will be the head of the council.

Al-Sisi led the July overthrow of Islamist Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, following days of demonstrations by millions of Egyptians who demanded him to step down.

Mansour also created a new National Defence Council to bring military commanders together with civilian ministers to decide on the country's top security matters in line with the country's newly passed constitution.

The constitution also gives the supreme council the power to name the defence minister. While the president could remove the minister, he can't name a replacement without the council's endorsement. Mansour also issued a separate decree stating that the defence minister must not be appointed from outside the military and must serve for two presidential terms.

According to the new decree, the council, which led the country after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, will be composed of 23 members instead of 13.

Secretive budget

The decree, published Tuesday in the government's official gazette and made public two days later, gives the president the right to call for the council to convene.

Mansour also issued another degree making the National Defence Council have 13 members, to be chaired by the president and includes the prime minister, intelligence chiefs, the head of parliament and others. The council will discuss the secretive budget of the military and security-related treaties.

Wednesday, Mansour issued another decree setting up the National Security Council, which is in charge of internal security affairs and composed of nine members headed by the president. The decree says the council will take "decisions that aim at protecting the state identity, sovereignty, independence and its international and regional status."

It is not clear which council out powers the other when issues overlap. Regardless, the president would be surrounded by military commanders side-by-side to civilian leaders to decide on the country's internal matters.

Retired Major General Abdel-Rafia Darwish, a military analyst, said the reshuffling of the council prevents the president from interfering in military affairs.

"What if the president is a civilian?" he asked. "He might take a decision that is wrong and that could harm the military." However, other experts described the changes as no surprise and in line with the new constitution.

- AP


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