- - Thursday, August 2, 2012

CAIRO — Egypt’s new prime minister pledged Thursday that his new 35-member Cabinet would be a “people’s government,” and called on Egyptians to rally behind it and the nation’s newly elected president in the face of “grave challenges.”

The U.S.-educated Hesham Kandil also confirmed that Hosni Mubarak’s defense minister of 20 years, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, will retain the post.

Field Marshal Tantawi led the military generals who took over from Mubarak when the president stepped down nearly 18 months ago following a popular uprising.

The new government was sworn in Thursday. It is the first since Mohammed Morsi, a longtime Muslim Brotherhood leader, was inaugurated in June as Egypt’s first freely elected president.

The new Cabinet’s line-up appeared aimed at allaying worries that Islamists will monopolize power in the government — three Brotherhood members were given ministries and several members of the outgoing, military-backed government will retain their posts, including the foreign and finance ministers.

Still, the line-up fell far short of the unity government that Mr. Morsi had initially said he would put together, bringing together political factions. Instead, the members were largely technocrats.


Pakistan receives $1.1 billion from U.S. to fight militants

KARACHI — Pakistan said Thursday it had received $1.1 billion from the United States for its fight against Islamist militants, the first installment of its kind since December 2010.

Washington released the funds after Pakistan and the U.S. on Tuesday signed an agreement governing NATO convoys traveling through Pakistan into Afghanistan until the end of 2015.

The fund, which is designed to reimburse Pakistan for the cost of counterinsurgency operations, paid $8.8 billion to Pakistan from 2002 to 2011.


U.S. sends more military aid as terrorist threats increase

Growing concerns about persistent terrorist threats from splintered al Qaeda groups across Africa have triggered an increase in U.S. military funding and more focus on a handful of African nations.

Already this year, the Pentagon has poured more than $82 million into counterterrorism assistance for six African countries, with more than half of that going to Uganda, and much of the rest going to Kenya, Burundi and Djibouti — all key allies in the fight against the al Qaeda-linked militant group al-Shabab in Somalia.

The assistance, according to the State Department’s latest report on terrorism, may be starting to show some results in Somalia.

But across Africa, the number of terrorist incidents increased by about 11 1/2 percent last year, including in Nigeria.

The new report comes as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has begun a series of visits across the continent.


Country celebrates final payments on $2.3B bond

BUENOS AIRES — Bond payoffs are supposed to be boring, but Argentina’s president is celebrating Friday’s final $2.3 billion payment on a bond given to people whose savings were confiscated a decade ago, suggesting it is a lesson for European countries now mired in foreign debt.

The nation’s economic disaster a decade ago left thousands with a grim choice after the government seized their dollar-denominated deposits to stop runs on the banks. They could switch to devalued pesos and regain access to what was left of their savings, or accept a piece of paper promising to repay the money in dollars over the next 10 years.

Few had any faith in the government’s promises back then. Argentina had just defaulted on more than $100 billion in foreign debt, banks were shuttered, the economy was in ruins and streets were filled with pot-banging protesters whose chants of “throw them all out” would send five presidents packing.

But Argentina has mostly paid up after all, making good on 92.4 percent of that defaulted debt so far, including $19.6 billion in U.S. currency over the years to cancel the Boden 2012 bond. Most of the hard-luck investors later sold the bonds at a loss, but as the government makes its last $2.3 billion payment on Friday, the few stalwarts who kept the faith have been made whole, while earning a modest 28 percent profit over the years.


Tourists in Sinai urged to return home

JERUSALEM — Israel is urging its citizens traveling in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula to return immediately amid warnings of an attack.

The travel warning was based on information alleging terrorist groups from the Gaza Strip are operating in the area and planning to attack or kidnap Israeli tourists.

Thursday’s travel warning was issued by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.

Once a popular destination for Israeli tourists, Sinai has become increasingly lawless since the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last year.


Pirates free Pakistanis under ransom deal

DUBAI — A negotiator said Thursday that seven crew members of a Malaysian-owned ship held by Somali pirates since late 2010 are heading home to Pakistan under a partial ransom deal that still leaves 15 merchant seamen held.

Negotiator Ahem Chinky said Pakistani families and groups raised $1.1 million for the release of the crew members from the MV Albino, but that fell short of the $2.85 million sought by the pirates under a deal reached earlier this year by Dubai-based intermediaries.

The freed crew passed through Dubai en route to Pakistan on Thursday.

The remaining crew still held by pirates include seven Sri Lankans, six Bangladeshis, one Iranian and one Indian.

The Kenya-bound ship was hijacked in November 2010 in the Gulf of Aden.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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