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Egypt appoints 9 ministers in limited reshuffle

CAIRO (AP) -- Nine new Egyptian ministers took oath of office on Tuesday before President Mohammed Morsi, bringing two new members of his Muslim Brotherhood into top economic posts in a limited Cabinet shuffle officials said was aimed at the country's financial woes and securing a much-needed international loan.

But despite statements from Morsi's allies that claimed he wished to reach out to the other political blocs, the shuffle is unlikely to reduce Egypt's political polarization. The opposition said they were not consulted on the appointments that they say merely further the "Brotherhoodization" of Morsi's government.

The shuffle, the second since Morsi took office in June last year, includes the finance, oil, planning and investment portfolios. It does not touch security posts like the Interior Ministry, in charge of police, and Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, who liberals and leftists as well as some Islamists say should be replaced, kept his job.

It also appoints a new justice minister, Ahmed Suleiman, who according to biographies published in the media was a member of a group opposing a judicial boycott on a controversial Morsi-backed constitutional referendum in December. Morsi's government has tangled on several occasions with the judiciary in the last year.

New finance minister Fayad Ibrahim is an expert in sukuk, bonds that claim to be compliant with Islamic Shariah law. Morsi's government is pushing sukuk as a way to attract investment.

"The party understands the difficulties facing the formation of Cabinets in transition periods, and that it might not be up to all aspirations," said Saad el-Katatni, head of the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. He said the party reached out to other groups because the "challenges facing our nation require collaboration of all efforts to lighten the negative impact of transition periods."

Egypt's economy has been hard hit by more than the two years of political turmoil that followed the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising in 2011.

Political polarization has deepened since last year, with Morsi and his Islamist supporters under fire from leftists, liberals, and others. Protests which now regularly turn into deadly clashes, feeding the country's sense of lawlessness and crisis.

Freedom and Justice deputy leader Essam al-Erian told Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr TV network that the most prominent feature of the new reshuffle is the change to the economic portfolio in the Cabinet, a move to spur negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over a much-needed $4.8 billion loan.

However, the opposition — which says it will boycott upcoming parliamentary elections if Morsi does not sack Kandil and form a national unity government, along with other conditions — said the shuffle did not meet their demands.

"Is the new reshuffle a new step toward complete Brotherhoodization?" asked opposition Amr Moussa, a term used by many Egyptians to indicate their fear that the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to monopolize power in the country. "Wouldn't it be more effective to take a different step to reflect movement toward partnership and national reconciliation?"

At least two of the nine are from Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group while others are Islamists and allies of the group. By now, a total of ten Muslim Brotherhood members are in the 36-member Cabinet.