CAIRO ø 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.