Egypt Independent

Tuesday’s papers: Hajj lottery tickets, mass protests, fish crisis

State-owned Al-Ahram kicks off a slow news day with another leading story on President Hosni Mubarak meeting with a world leader, this time Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. The paper reports that the two leaders discussed "the most recent developments in the Lebanese arena," in light of "Egypt’s interest in ensuring stability and progress in Lebanon." An almost identical report underneath an identical picture appears on the front-page of Al-Akhbar, in which the meeting also features as a lead story. And independent daily Rose al-Youssef makes the meeting its lead story too, providing a slightly more detailed report citing "Egypt’s concern over conflicts within Lebanese political authorities, and a state of tension that might be contributing to rumors of instability in the Middle East region."

Besides Mubarak’s meeting with Hariri, Al-Ahram also reports on a proposed law to protect land owned by the government against "violations." Plans for the new law were announced by Minister of Housing Ahmed Ezz during Monday’s Shura Council assembly, with a draft of the law to be presented during the upcoming parliamentary session. Reportedly, the proposed law would also "prohibit any projects or general construction on this government-owned land until all utilities and services that prevent the growth of slums have been made available." A second law was also proposed during the same Shura Council session, with the Ministry of Irrigation announcing its plans to present a written "guide" regulating the proper use of water for farming practices.

Al-Akhbar’s headlines announce the distribution of airline tickets to lottery winners hoping to travel to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj. The tickets will be given out at Egypt’s Air Opera Square office starting Tuesday. Al-Akhbar reports that the 4000 plus lottery winners were originally scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia by boat–plans that were scrapped after the government failed to secure "an appropriate numbers of boats that meet the standards set by the Ministry of Interior." According to the state-owned paper, the government has budgeted LE35 million for airfare for the lottery winners.

As usual, headlines from the independent dailies are dramatic. "Sudan on the verge of exploding," promises Al-Wafd’s front page. Sudanese sources have apparently confirmed civilian forces’ recent and strategic positioning of troops along the border separating northern and southern Sudan, Al-Wafd reports, adding that a number of members of the civilian force previously stationed elsewhere have also been ordered to patrol the border between the two areas. Al-Wafd also reports that civilian forces have repeatedly requested the US to send 7000 army soldiers and marines to "train Sudanese troops and assist in securing southern Sudan."

Al-Wafd’s headline for its second lead story is equally alarmist, announcing the "return of mass protests." Information center employees continued protesting for the second consecutive day in front of the Bank of Agricultural Development and Security. According to Al-Wafd, protesters were demanding the implemenation of a decision taken by parliament in May guaranteeing the inclusion of health insurance and other various benefits worth approximately LE350 in their annual salaries. The protesters had previously attempted to make their stand on the steps of parliament, but were forced to move by security forces.

Al-Shorouk’s lead story comes under a headline predicting a "fish crisis" similar to the recent "meat and vegetables crisis." The independent daily reports that over 80 percent of Egyptian fishing boats in the Red Sea have stopped operating after recent decisions made by Yemen, Eritrea, and Sudan demanding a higher percentage of the fish obtained from "international waters" off their coasts. Fishermen quoted in Al-Shorouk claim that the current situation will lead to an "unprecedented crisis" and a general shortage in fish and seafood.

Egypt's papers:

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 al-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: 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