Essam Abdel-Aziz Sharaf - Longtime Educator and Mubarak Critic Becomes New Egyptian Prime Minister

Another positive sign has just emerged out of Egypt.

Three days ago, Essam Abdel-Aziz Sharaf, an American-educated professor, civil engineer and Mubarak critic, was appointed as the new Prime Minister of Egypt by the governing military council. His appointment came on the heels of the resignation of the much-hated former Primer Minister, Ahmed Shafik. Shafik's resignation was in fact one of the key demands of the January 25th Revolution protesters who cried out against him by the thousands at Cairo's Tahrir Square.

The Wikipedia website notes the following concerning Essam Sharaf:

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Background

Sharaf was born in the Egyptian city of Giza in 1952. After receiving his B.Sc. in civil engineering from Cairo University in 1975, he went to Purdue University where he continued his studies, receiving his M.Sc. Engg in 1980 and his Ph.D. in 1984.

Political and academic career

Sharaf took a post as a visiting assistant professor at Purdue in 1984 before becoming assistant professor of Highway and Traffic Engineering at the University of Cairo the following year. In 1990, he was an assistant professor in Civil Engineering at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. He returned to the University of Cairo in 1991, becoming a professor of Highway Engineering in 1996. Sharaf was the senior adviser to the Egyptian Minister of Transport in 1999 and the Senior Technical Adviser to the municipality of Al Ain in the UAE in 2003.

He served as Egyptian Minister of Transportation from July 2004 to December 2005, before allegedly resigning in protest. Following his resignation, he returned to academia, accepting a post at Cairo University, where he remained a vocal critic of the Mubarak regime, particularly with respect to its handling of Egypt's public transportation infrastructure. He was asked by Egypt's governing military council to form a government on 3 March 2011, following the resignation of Ahmed Shafik.

Sharaf was present and active at the Tahrir Square protests, which endeared him to the leaders of the democracy movement and led them to suggest his name to the Military Council as a possible replacement for Shafik. On 4 March the day after his appointment to the Prime Ministership, he addressed crowds of pro-democracy activists at Tahrir Square shortly after Friday prayers, an unusual move for an Egyptian politician. In his speech to them he said "I draw my legitimacy from you" and reiterated his commitment to democratic transition, but pleaded for patience.

Political views

Sharaf is noted for strongly opposing normalization of ties with Israel. He considers the resolution of the IsraeliPalestinian conflict to be a prerequisite to cooperation between the two nations.

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No doubt, pro-Israel supporters will not be pleased with Sharaf's selection by the Egyptian military. However, considering his non-military and basically non-political background, his selection may very well turn out to be a positive development for the Egyptians who are sick and tired of the influences of the Mubarak regime. Time will certainly tell.

With their decision, the Egyptian military council seems to be sending a clear signal that it is desirous of a civilian, democratic government in Egypt, and that it really has no interest in maintaining a military dictatorship in the country. If they keep up these positive steps, even I may become convinced of their sincerity.

And then there is Libya . . .

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