Middle East News
PROFILE: Essam Sharaf tasked with building roads, now democracy
By Aya Batrawy Mar 3, 2011, 15:42 GMT
Cairo - Egypt's new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, was born in 1952, the same year that a military coup overthrew British-backed Egyptian King Farouk and ushered in decades of military rule.
Nearly 60 years later, Sharaf is at the helm of a newly-born era in one of the world's most ancient societies, tasked with overseeing a transitional government and with ushering in stability and democracy.
He steps into the post after Egypt's only successful popular-led revolution led to the ouster of former president Hosny Mubarak, who ruled the country for nearly 30 years. The local newspaper al-Shorouk reported last month that he led an anti-Mubarak march by professors from Cairo University to Tahrir Square.
Just hours ahead of a mass sit-in by activists in Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand the resignation of ministers appointed by Mubarak, the armed forces announced that Sharaf would be the country's new prime minister.
He takes over the post from the controversial Ahmed Shafiq, an Air Force general seen by opposition and activists as a remnant of Mubarak's old guard and a continuation of the military's rule over Egypt.
Sharaf, a civilian who most recently served as a distinguished professor of civil engineering at Cairo University, is known among opposition circles for his 'good reputation.'
Egypt's largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the secular April 6th Youth Movement, both welcomed his appointment to the post.
But Sharaf is not without ties to Mubarak. He served as transport minister under Mubarak for just under two years, starting in mid- 2004, and resigned after a deadly train accident.
Although he refuses to comment specifically about why he resigned, it was reported in local media that he was unhappy with mismanagement and corruption under Mubarak.
'It was a short period, but I saw some of the happiest and hardest of times of my life in the post,' he said in a past interview on the satellite channel Dream2.
While he broke official ties with the government, he stayed on until last year as a chief member of the ruling National Democratic Party, of which Mubarak was its head.
Unlike Mubarak, who had close ties with Israel, Sharaf said in an interview last year that he is against having normalized relations with Egypt's neighbour.
In an interview with the Arabic daily al-Masry al-Youm, he said that he does not personally support academic or scientific cooperation with Israel because of the continued imprisonment of Palestinians in Israeli jails and 'our fundamental differences with them.'
'I am against normalization of relations with Israel in any area, even in the area of scientific research,' he said.
However, Sharaf is a western-educated man, having both earned a master's degree in civil engineering and a PhD in the United States from the prestigious Purdue University in Indiana.
His father was a professor of veterinary medicine, and four of his brothers and sisters work or have worked as professors, according to his biography on Purdue's website.
Ten years after he earned his bachelor's degree, he joined Cairo University faculty in 1985 as an assistant professor of highway and traffic engineering. He also had stint teaching at the King Saud University in Saudi Arabia.
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