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State-run papers lead with President Hosni Mubarak's meeting yesterday with Sudanese vice-president Ali Othman Taha. According to Al-Ahram, the meeting, which took place in Cairo and was attended by a number of ministers and high-ranking officials, focused on Sudan's political tribulations, but also touched on the Darfur crisis and ways to improve Egyptian-Sudanese relations.
Following his meeting with the Sudanese vice president, Mubarak also received Hungarian prime minister Gordon Bajnai as well as members of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s presidential committee. Discussions focused on Egyptian relations with the respective countries, according to reports in Al-Ahram and echoed in Al-Gomhurriya.
In addition to Mubarak's diplomatic morning, a story about reductions in prices of imported medicine also got top billing in Al-Ahram. The paper called the new initiative "the first of its kind." According to a recent statement by Minister of Health Hatem el-Gabali, specific medicines--made locally under licenses from foreign companies--will undergo a 20-40 percent price reduction in order to make them available to a wider range of Egyptians suffering from a variety of diseases such as diabetes, Hepatitis A, brittle bones, cholesterol problems, and stroke-related problems.
Meanwhile, Al-Gomhurriya reported on Minister of Electricity and Energy Hassan Younis who stated during Monday’s Shura Council meeting that the location for the proposed first Egyptian nuclear power plant has yet to be determined. According to recent rumors, which Younis refuted, the plant was to be built in el-Daba, an area in the northwest. The government is currently fighting businessmen who plan to use the land to build hotels and other tourism infrastructure. Safwat el-Sherif, speaker of the Shura Council, said, "This was a case of the report preceding the event, and the report should never precede the event,” according to Al-Gomhurriya.
The independent papers covered neither Mubarak’s morning of meetings nor cheap medicine, and instead preferred to focus on the arrest of 15 members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the ongoing butane shortage. In a huge front page story, Al-Shorouq reported on the campaign of raids and arrests security forces staged against members of the Muslim Brotherhood early Monday morning. The sweep, which occurred simultaneously in five different governorates, was, according to the paper, the biggest of its kind since the incidents leading up to the 2007 military trials.
Among those arrested were deputy chairman Mahmoud Ezzat, political bureau chief Essam el-Erian, and Abdel Rahman el-Barr, a member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau. Sources speaking on behalf of State Security have reportedly denied any prior knowledge of the raids, while the Brotherhood’s lawyer, Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud, assured the press that the arrests were intended to “deliver a message” to the controversial organization, namely that no member, regardless of his position within the Brotherhood, would be “out of [the government’s] reach.”
“The sole purpose behind this raid is to cripple the Brotherhood,” Abdel Maqsoud was quoted as saying in independent Al-Dostour’s coverage. Abdel Maqsoud also speculated on the effect the arrests will have on the Brotherhood’s upcoming elections, particularly in light of the recent highly-publicized internal divisions.
In addition to covering the Brotherhood arrests, independent Al-Wafd also wrote about the current butane crisis. One of the lead stories in Al-Wafd was headlined, "Butane shipments from Algeria not affected by soccer crisis.” According to Tarek el-Hadidi, a representative of the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, butane imports from Algeria, which make up 20-25 percent of Egypt’s butane needs, were not interrupted following the dramatic World Cup qualifying match between the two nations. El-Hadidi went on to imply that the deficiency was in the butane being imported from Saudi Arabia. However, el-Hadidi said that the real cause of the butane shortage is a 70 percent increase in local butane consumption, stemming from illegal use in “brick factories and chicken farms.”
Al-Wafd also reported on negotiations between Egypt and Israel that were “uncovered” yesterday by Israeli sources. Under the headline “Negotiations concerning a new deal to export Egyptian gas to Israel,” the paper describes the initial stages of an agreement that will see the East Mediterranean Gas company export LE2 billion worth of gas over the next 15 years.
For its final chapter in the butane saga, Al-Wafd reported on a gunfight breaking out in a small town in Tanta over a lack of butane cylinders. In a surreal turn of events, the town’s mayor intentionally shot and seriously wounded two of his cousins--and four others--after they accused him of hoarding cylinders to use on his private farms. The wounded have since been hospitalized, and the mayor arrested.