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Egypt names new prime-minister

07 march 2011, 12:05
Nabil al-Arabi. ©AFP
Nabil al-Arabi. ©AFP
Egypt's newly appointed foreign minister Nabil al-Arabi is a respected veteran diplomat who joined the Camp David negotiations that yielded a peace deal with Israel.

Arabi was one of the names proposed by a coalition of pro-democracy activists who helped to launch nationwide protests that led to last month's overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak.

The US-educated diplomat will tap into his vast international experience to chart a new foreign policy in the challenging post-Mubarak era, amid deadly protests raging across the region demanding political change.

A respected international law expert, Arabi was one of 15 judges at the UN International Court of Justice from 2001 to 2006, and he sits on several international arbitration panels.

He joined the foreign ministry shortly after receiving his doctorate from New York University Law School, rising through the ranks to become Cairo's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and later in New York.

Arabi replaces Ahmed Abul Gheit, Egypt's foreign minister since 2004, who had survived a cabinet reshuffle by Mubarak aimed at placating protesters.

As a young diplomat, Arabi took part in the Camp David negotiations that led to Israel's first peace deal with an Arab country in 1979 and also saw Egypt suspended from the Arab League.

The Egyptian uprising that erupted on January 25 led to fears in Israel that the treaty would be jeopardized, but in a recent article in the independent daily al-Shorouk, Arabi said the peace deal must be maintained.

He criticized Egypt's foreign policy in recent years as outdated and reactionary, saying that "decisions were taken randomly and unilaterally."

"Egypt is a heavyweight in the region... and it is not appropriate for its foreign policy and positions to be improvised or to violate international laws," Arabi wrote, in reference to Egypt's quiet support for a blockade on the Gaza Strip.

He said the country should consider signing international human rights agreements, including the Geneva Convention.

Arabi was born in March 1935, and is married with two sons and a daughter.

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