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Briefly: Morsi appoints Christian, woman as assistants

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CAIRO — Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has appointed a Coptic Christian intellectual and a woman university professor as presidential assistants, his spokesman Yasser Ali announced.

Samir Morcos, a liberal Coptic writer engaged in the dialogue between Islam and Christianity, has been named assistant for democratic transition, Mr. Ali said Monday.

Pakinam al-Sharkawi, a political sciences professor at Cairo University, was appointed assistant for political affairs, he added.

The president also chose two assistants from the Islamist camp.

Emad Abdel Ghafour, leader of the ultraconservative Al-Nur Salafist party, was named assistant in charge of relations with civil society, while Essam al-Haddad from the Muslim Brotherhoood's Freedom and Justice Party becomes assistant for external relations and international cooperation.

Mr. Morsi, who was fielded for the presidential elections by the Freedom and Justice Party, pledged during his campaign to include Copts in his administration.

But the Coptic community, which represents 14 percent of Egypt's 82 million people, was unhappy over the composition of the country's new Cabinet, which was sworn in this month and includes just two women, one of them a Copt.

LIBYA

Interior minister withdraws resignation

TRIPOLI — Libyan Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelali said Tuesday he was withdrawing his resignation, announced Sunday amid criticism over a surge of violence, including destructions of shrines.

"When I submitted my resignation, I thought I would be relieving many people. But it seems that my resignation will further complicate security, and I have decided to withdraw it," Mr. Abdelali told a news conference in Tripoli.

Mr. Abdelali had resigned after coming under fire for the performance of security forces during a surge of violence that has rocked Libya, including attacks by Islamist hard-liners on shrines across the country.

SYRIA

Opposition leader criticizes U.S.

BEIRUT — The head of the main Syrian opposition group fighting to oust President Bashar Assad criticized U.S. officials Tuesday for saying it is premature to speak about a transitional Syrian government.

Abdelbaset Sieda told the Associated Press that the Syrian National Council is making "serious" preparations and consulting with other groups and rebels to form a government that could fill the leadership vacuum if Mr. Assad falls.

His comments came a day after French President Francoise Hollande called on the Syrian opposition to form a provisional government, saying France would recognize it.

But Mr. Hollande's statement, believed to be the first of its kind, was quickly shot down by U.S. officials, who said it is premature to speak about a provisional government when Syria's fractured opposition hasn't even agreed yet on a transition plan.

Mr. Sieda admitted that no names have been discussed and an announcement is not imminent but insisted that various factions eventually would pull together.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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