State-owned Al-Ahram starts off today’s news with a report on President Mubarak’s meeting yesterday with Russian Prime Minister Sergey Lavrov, during which the two discussed the “importance of Palestinian reconciliation, and lifting the siege on Gaza.” Mubarak and Lavrov also discussed possible ways to “re-enforce” Egyptian-Russian co-operation in trade, as well as efforts at the “continuation of the political synchronization between the two countries regarding issues of mutual interest.” Al-Ahram reports that Mubarak and Lavrov agreed on “an additional round of strategic Egyptian-Russian dialogue,” scheduled to be held this December in Moscow.
While Mubarak’s meeting with the Russian Prime Minister was featured on Al-Akhbar’s front page, the state-owned paper’s lead story revolved around the “evolution of Greater Cairo,” which, as promised by the headline, is planned to take effect over the next “40 years.” During a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, attendees discussed plans for the “development” of Cairo by 2050 into a “world-class city, and a capital of historical heritage.”
The initiative plans to “recapture the essence of the city’s architecture” and increasing the overall amount of “green areas.” Plans for this transformation were originally submitted by Minister of Housing Ahmed el-Maghraby, whose ministry has been charged with overseeing the relocation of government offices and ministries to an 18,000 feddan plot of land, situated to the east of Cairo. The initiative will also relocate residents of Cairo’s countless slums, ghettos, and other “unsafe and unplanned settlements” to the 50,000 housing units covering a total of 1500 feddans divided between the districts of 6 October and 15 May.
For its lead story, independent daily Al-Shorouq reports that the “government increases spending on health, education, and pensions.” According to a copy of the new year’s budget, which Al-Shorouq claims to have obtained directly after amendments were made by parliament, the government has decided to spend a total of LE185 billion on the three areas mentioned above, as well as subsidies and general support. The pre-amendment amount was reported to be LE165 billion. However, Al-Shorouq clarifies that, despite the increase, only a comparatively paltry LE48 billion was allotted for education, while wage increases would definitely not exceed 7 percent. The overall national budget for the new fiscal year is reported to be approximately LE490 billion.
Al-Shorouq also reports on the “global” press conference to be held today by residents of Sinai, comprised mostly of Bedouin tribe members. During the conference, tribal leaders are expected to reiterate their complaints against the “unprecedented crackdown” by security forces in the area, which despite promises made by the Ministry of Interior, continue unabated. According to the paper, one Bedouin claimed that “hundreds of soldiers” arrived “in the middle of the night” and have stationed themselves throughout the area, particularly “around the Ahmed Hamdy Tunnel and all other points of entry leading into Sinai.” As a result, some tribes have threatened bombings throughout the Sinai Peninsula if security forces do not stop “raiding” their homes.
Meanwhile, Al-Dostour reports on a village in Fayoum that was on fire for ten consecutive days. In an unusual phenomenon, several homes in the small village of Ezbet Abou Shoeik inexplicably burst into flames in turn. Eventually confounded villagers began calling local sheikhs as well as the fire department. According to the paper, one villager commented: “We were trying to put out the fires with water, Koran recitals, and loudspeakers.”
Al-Dostour also reports on the new Israeli-manufactured Heron drone, which, according to the paper, is sufficiently advanced as to catapult Israel to the “list of most powerful nations in the field of unmanned aviation.” According to the paper, the Heron can hover for a 52 hours straight, at a height of 10km.
Finally, Al-Wafd briefly mentions the Egyptian government’s rejection of the European Union’s report on Egypt’s investigations into the death of Alexandrian Khaled Saeed earlier this month, allegedly due to excessive violence at the hands of two undercover policemen. Last week, Egyptian authorities concluded, after two autopsies, that Saeed had choked on a marijuana cigarette he had swallowed in an attempt to hide it from the police officers. According to Al-Wafd, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki summoned European Union ambassadors to express his “extreme disappointment” in the “direct violation of democracy” inherent in their actions. Zaki also described the European Union’s efforts as “unacceptable interference in Egypt’s interior affairs.”
Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run
Rose el-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party’s Policies Secretariat
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouq:Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party
Youm7: Weekly, privately owned
Sawt el-Umma: Weekly, privately owned