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Egypt: Government resigns in live TV announcement

Military-backed interim prime minister Hazem el-Beblawi has been under fire recently for failing to revive country's floundering economy

Egypt's military-backed government has issued a shock resignation in an announcement broadcast today on state TV.

Interim prime minister Hazem el-Beblawi said his entire cabinet will now stand down, but has provided no explanation for their decision or information on who will take over.

"Today the cabinet took a decision to offer its resignation to the president of the republic," Mr Beblawi said in a live televised statement.

Mr Beblawi's government was sworn in on 16 July last year, less than two weeks after the army of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew the Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

His announcement will only serve to fuel speculation that Field Marshal Sisi, who is also the country's defence minister, has engineered the move in order to be free to run for president.

It was not immediately made clear who will replace Mr Beblawi as prime minister - or even if he will be standing down at all. He has been derided in the media in recent weeks for his apparent indecisiveness and failure to bring in effective economic policies.

The cabinet's resignation has nonetheless come as a shock in the country, despite being announced amid a host of strikes and with Egypt's businesses, national security and tourism industry all in turmoil.

Local media reports have also been full of the issues surrounding an acute shortage of cooking gas in the past few days.

The apparently outgoing prime minister acknowledged the difficult conditions in which his cabinet functioned, but suggested that he would be leaving Egypt a better place than it was when he first took office.

"The Cabinet has over the past six or seven months shouldered a very difficult responsibility ... in most cases the results were good," Mr Beblawi said. The goal, he added, was to take Egypt out of a "narrow tunnel" brought about by security, political and economic pressures.

A presidential bid by the seemingly popular Sisi has been widely anticipated, and an announcement leaving him out of the next cabinet will no doubt be accompanied by another saying the 59-year-old soldier is running.