Sunday’s Papers: Nile states reach impasse, ElBaradei in Alexandria

State-owned dailies Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar lead their Sunday editions with stories on the opening sessions of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) conference held in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Saturday. The two-day conference brings together irrigation and water resource ministers from the nine member states of the NBI, and marks the transfer of the organization’s presidency, which rotates on an annual basis, from Egypt to Ethiopia. Despite alarm expressed in recent months by Egyptian authorities over efforts by the upstream states to renegotiate international treaties, Al-Akhbar quotes Egyptian Water and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Nasr Alam, in remarks given during the opening session of the conference, as stressing, “President Mubarak insists that dialogue and the development of mutual understanding between the Nile basin states is the path towards resolving the issues at hand.”  However, Al-Ahram’s sources say that Egypt and Sudan refuse to sign a proposed framework agreement to reallocate the Nile’s waters, already signed by five upstream states, until clauses guaranteeing their water security are added.

Al-Shorouq takes a dimmer view on the conference. According to an unnamed source, the five signatory states to the Entebbe Framework agreement–Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya–informed the Egyptian delegation to Addis Ababa of their refusal to renegotiate the agreement. Due to the impasse, the source noted that work at the conference will be limited to developing a work plan and a budget for the 2010/2011 financial year, along with reviewing the NBI’s various cooperative projects. The paper also quotes a source within the Egyptian Foreign Ministry as saying that Egypt is considering cutting off its assistance for such projects as a response to the refusal of five upstream states to “return to the negotiating table.”

In other news, Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar report that President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Gheit will travel to the Libyan capital of Tripoli to participate in a mini-Arab Summit set to begin Monday. Arab League head Amr Moussa as well as leaders from Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Qatar are scheduled to participate in the conference, which aims to build consensus on a “framework for Arab cooperation.”  The attendees will discuss proposals for “developing the Arab League and its institutional mechanisms,” which they will present at the upcoming emergency Arab Summit scheduled for October. Al-Ahram quotes Abu Gheit as stating, “Egypt, as a leader in the region and a founding member of the Arab League, is committed to supporting cooperation between the Arab States in accordance with international developments.”

All of the major dailies report that a scheduled hearing in the retrial of Hisham Talaat Mustafa, a prominent Egyptian businessman and politician previously sentenced to death for ordering the killing of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim, was delayed until Tuesday due to an ongoing lawyers strike. Al-Shorouq states that a heated dispute broke out between the presiding judge and Mustafa’s defense team, which refused to represent their client until the Lawyers Syndicate ended the strike. The strike, launched after two lawyers were sentenced on 9 June to five years in prison for assaulting the Tanta district attorney, has triggered a nation-wide dispute between lawyers and judges, and has left Egyptian courts in near paralysis. Head defense lawyer Farid el-Deeb allegedly told the judge that he could not appoint a replacement lawyer “who did not adhere to the decision to strike.” After Mustafa told the court that he would not change his defense team, the judge ordered that the trial be delayed.

Al-Dostour leads with coverage of a series of silent protests held throughout Egypt on Friday and Saturday to protest the 6 June death of Khalid Saeed, the young man allegedly beaten to death by Alexandria police. In the coastal city, black-clad demonstrator, including presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei, formed a line along the Corniche Road. According to a statement posted on ElBaradei’s Twitter account, “the Alexandria protest [was] a defiant statement in the face of the regime that the people refuse to accept torture…”

Al-Dostour also reports that Israeli security forces fatally shot an Egyptian and injured another on Saturday as they were attempting to cross the border into Israel from the Sinai, arresting two of their companions in the process. Sources told the paper that Israel would soon hand over the body of the dead Egyptian, without specifying the fates of the other three men. Al-Dostour goes on to criticize the Egyptian authorities for not “condemning this Israeli crime against Egyptian citizens. “  “As usual, no Egyptian official has outlined an official position against Israel and its aggressions or demanded an investigation into the Tel Aviv’s version of the incident,” the paper concludes.

Egypt’s newspapers:
: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
: Daily, state-run
Rose el-Youssef:
Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party’s Policies Secretariat
Daily, privately owned
Daily, privately owned
Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party
Weekly, privately owned
Sawt el-Umma:
Weekly, privately owned

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