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Egypt's new finance minister pleads not to sacrifice country

By Phil Han, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Egypt's new finance minister pleads not to risk country for short-term problems
  • Says he understands concerns of protestors, but asks for calm
  • Believes country can come back from economic crisis facing the country

Tune into Quest Means Business at 1900 GMT, 2000 CET with CNN's Richard Quest to view the full interview and for complete coverage on the Egypt crisis.

(CNN) -- Egypt's newly appointed finance minister Samir Radwan has urged protesters trying to topple President Hosni Mubarak's regime not to risk the country's security and prosperity for short-term gain.

In an exclusive interview, Radwan told CNN's Richard Quest that he understood the protesters' grievances and said his priority was to show that the government was responsive to the "fair demands" of the people.

But he added: "How do we genuinely send the message to those people that their demands are fair, that we care for their demands, but we should not throw the baby with the bath water?

"We should not sacrifice the whole country for short-term, you know, problems."

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Radwan's comments were the first made publicly by a member of Mubarak's new government, appointed over the weekend after days of street protests in the North African country.

Radwan also spoke about the impact the crisis was having on the country's financial stability and the decision by Fitch Ratings to downgrade its outlook for Egypt to "negative."

"Certainly the rating has gone down for understandable reasons and that's why we are putting the emphasis on restoring law and order, on bringing back calm, on opening channels of dialogue with the young people and assuring them that their demands are fair," Radwan said.

"That is the way to go back to the previous rating, what was not bad at all."

Radwan also explained two priorities for the new government.

"Number one is that we should not sacrifice the reforms, we should not sacrifice the gains that Egypt has made in the economic arena that enabled it to stand the storm of two successive crisis -- the food crisis and the financial crisis," he said.

"Second is we need to use public expenditure to achieve some sort of social justice and a better distribution of the fruits of growth, as to the bottom 40 percent of this country."