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Egypt swears in new liberal Cabinet, shutting out Islamist parties

CAIRO — Egypt swore in its first Cabinet on Tuesday since President Mohammed Morsi was thrown out of office, putting relative liberals in charge of key ministries and shutting out Islamists that were elected into power last year.

The head of the armed forces who ousted Morsi on July 3, Army Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, was sworn in first deputy prime minister in the interim government of Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, 76, a liberal economist. El-Sissi will also remain defense minister, Al-Jazeera and the English-language version of the independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

Nabil Fahmy, a familiar face to the U.S. as Egypt's ambassador to Washington from 1999 to 2008, is the new foreign minister.

Interim President Adly Mansour swore in three women among the 34 members of the new Cabinet, running the ministries of information, health and the environment.

It includes no members Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood or the other leading Islamist party, Nour, which have won the last three parliamentary and presidential elections and two constitutional referendums since the military deposed President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. 

Supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi throw stones during clashes in downtown Cairo, Egypt, on Monday. Hussein Malla / AP

The Muslim Brotherhood said it wouldn't take part in what it called a military government.

"It's an illegitimate government, an illegitimate prime minister, an illegitimate Cabinet," a Brotherhood spokesman told Al-Jazeera. "We don't recognize anyone in it. We don't even recognize their authority as representatives of the government."

The appointments were made official in the wake of a night of violence across Cairo that left seven people dead and at least 261 injured, according to a medical official. Reuters cited Egypt's state news agency as saying 401 people had also been arrested overnight.

The street battles were the bloodiest since more than 50 Morsi supporters were killed July 8. Morsi, who was democratically elected a year ago, was ousted in the wake of massive opposition protests.

Tuesday's clashes came as a senior U.S. envoy visited Egypt, saying it had been given a "second chance" at democracy.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met interim leaders but was snubbed by rival groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and representatives from the Tamarod, the group behind the protests that toppled Morsi.

"Only Egyptians can determine their future," Burns told reporters at the U.S. Embassy.

The U.S. supports Egypt with $1.5 billion in aid annually. However, that aid was formally put under review last week in the wake of the military-backed power shift.

U.S. law requires that aid be cut off to a country that undergoes a military coup, but Western leaders have stopped short of declaring the July 3 transition a coup.

M. Alex Johnson of NBC News and Reuters contributed to this report. Henry Austin reported from London.

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