Egypt prepares for war, sees $8 billion blow to tourism

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

CAIRO Egypt says it has completed security preparations for a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Egyptian officials said the measures include increased security for government and Western installations, the arrest of hundreds of suspected Islamic insurgents and restrictions on anti-U.S. demonstrations. They said thousands of Egyptian police and security officers have been recruited in the effort.

Egypt has allowed the United States use of its air space and waters for the preparations for a war against Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported.

Egyptian Interior Minister Habib Adly said Egypt's stability will not be harmed by any U.S.-led war against Iraq. But he expressed concern over the return of millions of Egyptian laborers from the eastern Levant and the Persian Gulf region.

Adly reviewed the preparations of the nation's security services. Adly told a meeting of senior police officials the measures are meant to protect national security and economic stability.

"We have completed a study of the influence of a U.S. attack from the security point of view and its repercussions on the internal situation," Adly said on Sunday. "The expected problems concern the emigration of foreigners and the arrival of Egyptians from abroad."

An Egyptian parliamentary committee agreed and said the country's tourist industry would also be damaged by a U.S.-led war on Iraq. The Economic Committee said Egypt could lose $8 billion as a result of the destruction of the Saddam regime, which over the last two years has significantly bolstered trade with Cairo.

Adly opened the meeting to journalists and urged them to use their positions to bolster Egypt's stability. He also warned against any attempt to agitate against the government.

Officials said a key concern of the Egyptian regime of President Hosni Mubarak is the stability of the national currency. Last week, Cairo removed official restrictions and floated the pound in an attempt to encourage foreign investment.

Adly said the floating of the Egyptian pound means that the economy is dependent on domestic stability. The minister stressed that security agencies were monitoring any attempt to manipulate the value of the Egyptian currency.

The minister expressed confidence that Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood would be unable to spark unrest amid the U.S. military buildup against Iraq.

Egyptian security agencies have reduced the amount of funding for the Brotherhood, Adly said. The assertion was confirmed by Western diplomatic sources.

"This group [Brotherhood] has been completely controlled and the security agencies deals with it well," Adly said.

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