CAIRO (AFP/Reuters) - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi told a gathering of Arab foreign ministers on Wednesday that he wanted to revive Egypt’s pivotal role in the Arab region after the country had been “marginalised.”

Mursi told ministers at the Arab League headquarters that he wanted Egypt to “regain its natural place in the Arab world, contributing to help its people build a bright Arab future.”

He said that Egypt had “unfortunately been absent from Arab work for a while.”

“We return from this marginalisation, where we have lived in recent decades, back to Egypt’s natural historic role,” Mursi said.

Since his election in June, Mursi has sought to redefine Egypt’s diplomatic path, taking a strong stance on the Syria conflict and visiting Iran and China, both rivals of Egypt’s traditional ally the United States.

Mursi lashed out at the Syrian regime during a speech at the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran last week, calling it “oppressive” while publicly urging support for rebels seeking President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster.

“Egypt’s commitment to the Arab region is a historic commitment, renewed by the January 25 revolution” that toppled Hosni Mubarak and paved the way for Mursi to become the first Islamist leader of the Arab world’s most populous nation.

“Our ability as Arabs to face the challenges of the current phase is largely based on our ability to develop Arab cooperation,” Mursi said.

“We must complete each other and be able to reform the mechanisms of Arab cooperation in order to revive, in all of us, the concept of Arab unity,” he said. “If the Arabs rise, the whole world will rise,” Mursi said.

The Egyptian leader is set to embark on his first official trip to Europe next week, visiting Brussels and Rome before attending the UN General Assembly later this month.

Mursi on Wednesday has appointed members of the Muslim Brotherhood as provincial governors, moves seen as part of a drive to purge loyalists of ousted Hosni Mubarak from state bodies and strengthen support for the new Islamist leader.

The president’s office announced on Tuesday that it had picked 10 new governors, and said all those appointed were chosen on merit rather than party affiliation.

At least three of the new names are known members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group banned under Mubarak. They took posts in Minya, Kafr el-Sheikh and Manufiya. One newspaper said up to three others had loose links to the Islamist group.

Three army generals were appointed governors in Suez, Red Sea and North Sinai, near sensitive border areas. The army launched a campaign against militants in Sinai after Islamists killed 16 Egyptian border police near the border with Israel in August.

Egypt has 27 governorates and under Mubarak top security officials held most of the posts. In some cases they were viewed as sinecures or rewards for service, but they ensured that loyalists were in control of the country. Analysts have been watching for Mursi, who was sworn in on June 30 and formally resigned from the Brotherhood on taking office, to push more of his supporters and sympathisers into the bureaucracy to help drive through his policies.

“The governors were chosen on the basis of efficiency, the ability to connect with the people, good reputation and not party affiliation,” presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said in a statement.