January 29, 2011 / 3:35 PM / in 7 years

UPDATE 1-Egypt Mubarak picks vice-president for first time

(Adds details, reaction)

CAIRO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 82, picked his intelligence chief and confidante Omar Suleiman as vice president, a post Mubarak occupied before taking the top job and which has never been filled in 30 years of his rule.

The step indicates for the first time a possible succession plan and also suggests Mubarak’s son, who has long rumoured to be a potential leader, has been pushed out of the picture.

The moves comes after five days of protests that have shattered the image of a country that had long been able to crush dissent and opposition through its vast military and security forces.

It may also indicate Mubarak, 82, will not run again in the planned September presidential elections, when officials had suggested he would stand.

Omar Suleiman, 74, has long taken a close role in key policy areas, including the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, an issue seen as vital to Egypt’s relationship with its key ally and aid donor the United States.

State TV showed Suleiman being sworn in as the vice-president.

The official state news agency carried a brief item that said: “Minister Omar Suleiman has been sworn in this evening as vice president for the president of the republic.”

It was not clear if protesters would welcome a move that keeps control in the hands of the military and security institutions.

“He is just like Mubarak, there is no change,” a protester told Reuters outside the Interior Ministry, where thousands were protesting, moments after the appointment. (Writing by Edmund Blair, editing by Samia Nakhoul)

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