Middle East

Egypt minister Hazem el-Beblawi quits over Coptic rally

Egypt's Finance Minister Hazem el-Beblawi at a meeting of Gulf and Arab finance ministers in Abu Dhabi in September 2011
Image caption Mr Beblawi said the government was ultimately responsible for the violence

Egypt's Finance Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, who was appointed by the ruling military council after popular protests earlier this year, has resigned, officials and media say.

Mr Beblawi, who was also deputy PM, quit over the government's handling of a Christian Coptic protest on Sunday, they said.

It ended in clashes between the army and protesters in which 25 were killed.

The ruling military council has ordered a swift inquiry into the violence.

Grievances

"Despite the fact that there might not be direct responsibility on the government's part, responsibility lies, ultimately, with the government," state news agency Mena quoted Mr Beblawi as saying.

"The current circumstances are very difficult and require a new and different way of thinking and working," he said.

His resignation came as members of the Coptic Christian community began a three-day fast to mourn those killed.

The ruling military council, which was handed the power to govern by President Hosni Mubarak before he was ousted in the popular revolt, is in temporary charge of the country while elections are organised.

The Copts, who make up about 10% of Egypt's 85 million population, have a number of grievances against the interim administration.

They say the authorities have been slow to punish radical Islamists who have attacked their churches.

Sunday's protest was sparked by the burning down of a church in the southern Aswan province last month.

About 2,000 people gathered in Cairo for an initially peaceful rally to protest against its destruction. But fighting soon broke out, involving protesters, residents and troops.

More on this story