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Tuesday, September 5, 2007      New: Take a Stand

Mubarak blames Muslim Brotherhood for spreading rumors he is dead

CAIRO Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is on the offense against rumors that he was no longer functioning.

Over the last few weeks, rumors have been published inside and outside Egypt that Mubarak had been hospitalized. According to one rumor, stemming from Mubarak's failure to attend scheduled meetings, the 79-year-old president had died.

In an Aug. 31 interview to the state-owned Al Ahram daily, Mubarak said the rumors were fueled by his political enemies, Middle East Newsline reported. He said he was capable of governing, and urged Egyptians to ignore reports to the contrary.

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"These rumors do not interest me," Mubarak said. "I continue my work without paying attention to such rumors whose sources and goals we know."

"The illegitimate movements behind these recent rumors do not want stability for the people, and have no aim but to detract from the achievements of Egypt and its people," Mubarak said.

Egyptian government sources said the opposition Muslim Brotherhood was the source of rumors regarding Mubarak's poor health. Mubarak was said to have undergone medical treatment for cancer in Paris during August 2007.

At one point, rumors spread that Mubarak had died. The sources said this prompted the president to visit an industrial zone near Alexandria.

"His health is excellent and he is as active as ever," Mubarak's wife, Suzanne, said on Sunday. "I'm puzzled as to who would benefit from spreading these rumors that make the public confused."

On Sept. 1, the president was forced to cancel an appearance scheduled for the following day in the Sohaj province. Egyptian sources confirmed the cancellation, but said the development project Mubarak had been scheduled to dedicate in southern Egypt was not ready.

The Egyptian opposition, the target of a government crackdown, has asserted that Mubarak's deteriorating health has fueled efforts to groom his son as successor. Egypt has planned a referendum for April 2008 that would enable Mubarak's son, Gamal, to become president.

"The Muslim Brotherhood is playing a role in these rumors," an unidentified Egyptian official told the Al Masri Al Yom daily on Sunday. "This has been proven during the questioning of certain Brotherhood leaders."

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