Murbarak shows signs of physical weakness

Friday, June 18, 2004

CAIRO President Hosni Mubarak has been forced to cancel diplomatic meetings because of increasing weakness.

Mubarak canceled meetings on Wednesday and Thursday in his presidential palace in Cairo without explanation. They included the scrapping of two scheduled sessions with visiting Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei. Officials said Mubarak would meet Qurei on Friday, Middle East Newsline reported.

Western diplomatic sources said the Egyptian president has shown increasing signs of weakness over the last two weeks.

The sources said Mubarak has been rarely seen in public since he returned from Russia in late May.

On Wednesday, the opposition Al Maqreze Center for Historical Studies claimed that Mubarak was hospitalized and in critical condition. The Islamic center said Mubarak's condition deteriorated on Tuesday.

Hours after the report, Egyptian state television was ordered to film the 76-year-old Mubarak with Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi. A subsequent television broadcast also showed Mubarak walking.

Over the last few weeks, Mubarak has found it difficult to walk and in early June postponed a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom because of what of Egyptian officials termed a leg ailment. During his visit to Moscow on May 27-29, the president stumbled but was not hurt.

Mubarak was scheduled to fly to Paris later this month for what diplomatic sources said involved medical treatment. Mubarak was believed to have been stricken with prostate cancer.

In November 2003, Mubarak appeared on the verge of collapse during an address to parliament. He was taken to a side room to rest for 45 minutes before he returned to complete his remarks.

Mubarak has refused numerous Western appeals to appoint a vice president. Those closest to power are Mubarak's son, Gamal, Tantawi and intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman.

The state-owned Al Ahram daily said Egypt's Cabinet could tender its resignation to Mubarak by July. The Friday edition said Mubarak will order the appointment of a new Cabinet.

"It is expected also that many faces will change in the new government, especially those who have spent a long time in their ministerial posts," Al Ahram editor-in-chief and Mubarak confidante Ibrahim Nafie wrote.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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