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February 10, 2012

Egypt struggles to recover tourism, investment

Egypt struggles to recover tourism, investment

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Egypt
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  • 27 January 2015: Greek singer Demis Roussos dies aged 68
  • 23 December 2014: Egypt opens Rafah border crossing for additional day
  • 16 December 2014: Freighter hits fishing boat in Gulf of Suez; thirteen dead
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The Egyptian pound is currently falling in value.
Image: Mabuhelwa.

Standard & Poor’s downgraded Egypt’s currency rating for the second time in four months based on the country’s shorfall in foreign reserves and shaky political transition. It’s the latest development for a nation facing mounting economic diffuclties.

Egypt’s foreign reserves fell by over 50 percent last year to about US$16 billion. Egypt has requested US$3.2 billion from the International Monetary Fund to bolster its reserves and prevent a devalation but that could take months.

Experts say that Egypt’s problem of attracting foreign investment and tourists, which are two sources that would increase reserves, has already caused the Egyptian pound to lose 1 percent of its value and if the country doesn’t solve the shortfall in foriegn currency, it could even lead to a further currency devaluation within the next two to three months.

The long-term solution is to restore tourism and foreign investments but both are suffering because of the continuing unrest.

Tourism

The Sphynx was said to guard the city of Thebes by killing anyone who couldn’t answer a riddle.
Image: Schreibkraft.

Egyptian tourism suffered this past year as a result of a revolution, a transition to an elected government, and continuing signs of unrest and instability.

The Egyptian Revolution began on January 25 last year and President Hosni Mubarak resigned over two weeks later on February 11. The protests have continued as Egyptians grew uncomfortable with the military’s control over the transition. At the start of this month, 79 people were killed at a soccer event in Port Said.

Tourism in Egypt accounted for US$12.5 billion in 2010 but fell 30 percent, or US$8.8 billion, in 2011, according to Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, Egypt’s tourism minister. Tourism accounts for 11.6 percent of Egypt’s GDP.

Tourists visit The Valley of the Kings in Egypt. It holds 63 tombs and chambers for Pharaohs and nobles of the New Kingdom era. The valley is on the west bank of the Nile across from Thebes.
Image: Markh.

Last week, two U.S. female tourists and their Egyptian guide were abducted in the Sinai peninsula by Bedouin tribesmen and released shortly afterward.

The kidnapping took place in broad daylight on a busy road while the tourists travelled after a visit to St. Catherine’s Monastery. Masked tribesmen stopped their bus, abducted the tourists by gunpoint, and escaped into the mountains. Three other tourists of unknown nationalities were left on the bus. Local authorities organized a search which ended in negotiations with local Bedouin tribesmen. The Bedouin demanded the release of recently apprehended tribesmen, who had been detained for drug trafficking and robbery. The US hostages were released unharmed, Abdel Nour said.

As a location, Egypt boasts ancient pyramids, the Nile River, Biblical sites like Mount Sinai, museums, and Red Sea coastal resorts. Last year the number of tourists plunged from fifteen million people down to nine million, which is a 40 percent drop.

A camel resting between rides at the Pyramids in Egypt.
Image: Crashsystems.

The low amount of tourism to Egypt has also affected tourism in other countries. Stas Misezhnikov, Israeli tourism minister, said that Israeli tourism is down because the flow of tourism from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort is “almost nonexistent right now.”

Investment

Egypt’s current investment climate is also severely hampered by the perception that the climate is not yet right for investment.

Mulyani Indrawati, managing director of the World Bank, said investors were not ready to get back into the markets of the Arab Spring countries until stability is restored but the situation has also been exacerbated by the precarious state of the regional and international economy.

Egypt’s domestic politics is threatening one of the country’s largest stable sources of foreign investment. The United States’ annual military aid to Egypt accounts for US$1.5 billion. U.S. politicians have threatened to withhold that aid package, however, because of an investigation into pro-democracy NGOs that involve 19 American citizens and more U.S. money. Senator John Kerry said the Egyptian investigation is a “dangerous game that risks damaging both Egypt’s democratic prospects and the U.S.-Egyptian bilateral relationship.”

Faiza Abou el-Naga, who is the Egyptian minister who distributes Egypt’s aid money, a former Mubarak loyalist who survived through the transition, and one of Egypt’s most visible female politicians, claims the NGOs are meddling in her country’s sovereignty. Both the Muslim parties who won the election and the generals in power are backing those hearings. Her argument that foreigners are meddling in Egypt also has a populist appeal.

The military government’s slow transition is also stalling foreign investments. Khaled bin Mohamed al-Attiya, foreign minister of Qatar, said a few weeks ago his government is holding back from making US$10 billion in investments because power has not been transferred to an elected government. The other Middle Eastern countries that pledged investments, such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are also waiting.

The Egyptian government announced this week that it was investigating Yasser el-Mallawany, an investment banker with EFG Hermes based in Cairo, for allegedly paying soccer fans to riot at Port Said, a charge which el-Mallawany dismissed and attributed to gossip.

Meanwhile, investors within Egypt are looking for other investment vehicles such as real estate as they fear holding cash in a period of devaluation.

Florence Eid, who is an expert on Middle Eastern economies at U.K. Arabia Monitor, said the situation throughout the Middle East could get worse. “People are frustrated because the reasons that they revolted against to begin with, are still there,” Eid said. “Whoever said this was going to be smooth was naive.”

Related news

“One year on: Egyptians mark anniversary of protests that toppled Mubarak” — Wikinews, January 25, 2012

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April 13, 2011

Mubarak arrested in Egypt ahead of corruption probe

Mubarak arrested in Egypt ahead of corruption probe

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cquote1.svg The prosecutor general orders the detention of former president Hosni Mubarak and his sons Gamal and Alaa. Cquote2.svg

—Egyptian prosecutor general

Egypt
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File photograph of Hosni Mubarak.
Image: World Economic Forum.

Hosni Mubarak, the ousted president of Egypt, who was last night taken to hospital after a heart attack, has been detained by prosecutors in the country ahead of a corruption probe. Egyptian officials allege Mubarak was involved in corruption and killings while he was in office.

The prosecutor general confirmed Mubarak and his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, had been detained for 15 days in the early hours of this morning. The former president, ousted from power in February following widespread protests across the country, remains in hospital after suffering a heart attack while being questioned by Egyptian officials yesterday.

Mubarak was summoned to face questions before Egyptian officials on Sunday over allegations of money laundering while he was in power and claims he ordered security forces to fire on anyone protesting against him. Sources say he suffered a heart attack while being interrogated by Egyptian prosecutors, and was taken to hospital in the coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he has been living since resigning. He arrived at the hospital in an armored car and flanked by heavy protection, according to two sources in the city, which lies on the coast of the Red Sea.

Outside the hospital, thousands of people gathered to demand Mubarak stand trial for ordering security forces to fire on protesters during the popular uprising earlier this year, when 800 people were killed. As Gamal and Alaa were driven away in a police van the crowd pelted the vehicle with stones, water bottles and shoes. Thousands more have gathered in Tahrir Square in the capital, Cairo, in the past few days demanding Mubarak be tried for his alleged crimes.

Mubarak has robustly denied the allegations of corruption and killings during his administration. Shortly before he was ordered for questioning on Sunday, the television station Al-Arabiya broadcast an audio message from the former leader, in which he said he would defend himself against what he termed an “unjust” campaign of “distortions, lies and incitement” against him. He claimed his enemies were systematically aiming to “tarnish my reputation and discredit my integrity,” and said he would legally fight those who “engaged in lies and distortions against me.”



Related articles

  • “Mubarak refused permission to leave Egypt for treatment after heart attack” — Wikinews, April 12, 2011
  • “Mubarak summoned by Egyptian prosecutors to face allegations of killings and corruption” — Wikinews, April 10, 2011

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April 12, 2011

Mubarak refused permission to leave Egypt for treatment after heart attack

Mubarak refused permission to leave Egypt for treatment after heart attack

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

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Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has been refused permission to leave the country for medical treatment in Germany after suffering a heart attack during questioning by prosecutors who allege he was involved in corruption and killings while in government. The former leader was transported to hospital this afternoon days after he defended himself against allegations of money laundering.

Hosni Mubarak pictured in 2003.
Image: Ricardo Stuckert.

Mubarak, who is banned from leaving Egypt, was today taken to hospital in the coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he has been living since being ousted from power following widespread protests across the country, a security source confirmed. It is understood aides have requested he be allowed to leave the country for Germany, where he underwent surgery on his gall bladder last year. Officials close to Mubarak have repeatedly insisted recent reports that the former leader’s health was deteriorating were false.

The hospital is reported to have effectively shut down since Mubarak’s admission today, and is only accepting emergencies, although Wikinews cannot independently verify this report. The security source said Mubarak was taken to hospital “amid a very heavy security presence in the town” this afternoon after maintaining a low profile in the city, on the coast with the Red Sea. He arrived at the hospital in his armored Mercedes, flanked by heavy police protection, according to two doctors who spoke anonymously. Hearing the news of the hospitalization a number of protesters arrived at the hospital to picket against the former president. The hospital declined to make any comment on the news, and said the Egyptian minister of health would make a statement later today.

Mubarak was being questioned by Egyptian officials, who summoned him for interrogation at the weekend, when he was taken to hospital. Prosecutors allege he ordered security forces to fire on people protesting against his rule. In an audio interview broadcast on television station Al-Arabiya, he said he would robustly defend himself against what he termed an “unjust” campaign of “distortions, lies and incitement” against him. He claimed his enemies were systematically aiming to “tarnish my reputation and discredit my integrity,” and said he would legally fight those who “engaged in lies and distortions against me.”


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April 10, 2011

Mubarak summoned by Egyptian prosecutors to face allegations of killings and corruption

Mubarak summoned by Egyptian prosecutors to face allegations of killings and corruption

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Egypt
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Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president of Egypt in February.
Image: Executive Office of the President of the United States.

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president ousted in February after massive demonstrations, has been summoned by officials in the country to face questions about corruption within his administration and allegations he ordered his forces to kill activists protesting against him.

The news came hours after Mubarak announced he would cooperate with the investigation into corruption within his regime, and said he would robustly defend himself against what he termed an “unjust” campaign of “distortions, lies and incitement” against him. He made the comments in his first appearance since he was ousted from office.

His two sons have also been summoned by Egyptian prosecutors to answer to allegations of embezzlement of public funds during Mubarak’s rule. This afternoon, the former prime minister of Egypt, Ahmed Nazif, was taken into custody for 15 days as part of the corruption investigation, the Egyptian public prosecutor said in a statement.

Mubarak said he would not be returning to politics and he had left office in “the interest of the country”. He said he would write to Egyptian officials to say he would cooperate with their investigation, and added the inquest would find his assets were “far from any allegations of corruption,” following which he would “legally pursue those who engaged in lies and distortions against me.”

Cquote1.svg I have been in great pain because of the unjust campaigns and untrue allegations targeting myself and my family. Cquote2.svg

—Hosni Mubarak

In an audio message which aired today on Al-Arabiya, Mubarak said he would not “stay silent regarding the incitement campaign against me.” He said: “I have been in great pain because of the unjust campaigns and untrue allegations targeting myself and my family. They aim to tarnish my reputation and discredit my integrity, my stance, my political and military history during which I worked hard for Egypt and its people in peace and war.”

On Friday, dozens were injured and at least one person killed as the Egyptian army moved into Tahrir Square in Cairo to clear protesters calling for Mubarak to stand trial for corruption. The army has denied using live ammunition, but several people suffered gunshot wounds.

Three people within Mubarak’s administration have been charged with corruption by Egyptian authorities in the wake of Mubarak stepping down from his position as president two months ago after widespread protests in Egypt. Officials have denied reports he is unwell, and he is thought to be residing at his home in Sharm el-Sheikh, on the coast of the Red Sea. He has been barred from leaving the country.



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February 14, 2011

Former Egyptian president Mubarak reportedly ill, may be in coma

Former Egyptian president Mubarak reportedly ill, may be in coma

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Egypt
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  • 27 January 2015: Greek singer Demis Roussos dies aged 68
  • 23 December 2014: Egypt opens Rafah border crossing for additional day
  • 16 December 2014: Freighter hits fishing boat in Gulf of Suez; thirteen dead
  • 24 November 2014: Sisi: Egypt willing to send stabilizing forces to future Palestinian State
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Mubarak in 2009.
Image: Presidency of Italy.

Al Arabiya is reporting that former president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak, 82, has fallen into a coma. According to the network, Mubarak went into a coma on Saturday night after falling ill. Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian ambassador to the United States said on the Today Show on NBC, that Mubarak is “possibly in bad health.” He is currently being treated at his home in Sharm el-Sheikh on the coast of the Red Sea.

“I am following the rumors and the press reports related to his health, and might have received some communication at a personal level indicating that he is possibly in somewhat of bad health,” added Shoukry. “I really don’t have sufficient information so I wouldn’t like to speculate [on his condition].”

Al Arabiya was quoting an article published in an Egyptian newspaper called al-Masry al-Youm, which states that Mubarak fainted at least two times while recording his last speech as president on Thursday night. Other newspapers reported that he stopped taking medications and was depressed. Shortly after leaving Cairo and arriving at his seaside home, Mubarak became ill and reportedly went into a coma. Egyptian State Television denies that Mubarak is in a coma, but does say that he is severely ill.

“[Mubarak is suffering from a] severe psychological condition and is declining treatment, despite his illness,” Al-Gomhuria daily, a pro government news agency in Egypt.

Mubarak was ousted as president of Egypt on Friday after 18 days of mass, pro-democracy protests which mainly called for his resignation. He had been president for nearly 30 years.



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November 17, 2009

Egypt registers first domain name in Arabic

Egypt registers first domain name in Arabic

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

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Tarek Kamel addressing the 2009 Internet Governance Forum
Image: Henrik Hansson.

Egyptian Communication and Information Technology Minister Tarek Kamel announced on Sunday that the country had filed an application for the “.misr” (“.Egypt”) top-level domain (مصر‎ in Arabic) and that registrations for second-level domains would begin as of midnight (2200 UTC) at an Internet conference sponsored by the United Nations. According to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) chief executive Rod Beckstrom, six countries have applied for top-level domains in three languages since the Internet coordinator opened up the use of non Latin scripts yesterday.

“Now we can really say that Internet will speak Arabic,” said Kamel at the start of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)’s fourth conference at Sharm el-Sheikh.

The expansion of Internet domain names with Internationalized Domain Names (IDN), containing non-Latin characters is the fruit of six years of discussions and technical work, resulting in the ICANN voting on October 30 to allow the new domain names. It has been called the move the “biggest change” to the Internet “since it was invented 40 years ago”.

“Over half the Internet users around the world don’t use a Latin-based script as their native language,” commented Rod Beckstrom, president of the ICANN. “IDNs are about making the Internet more global and accessible for everyone.”

Cquote1.svg Now we can really say that the Internet will speak Arabic Cquote2.svg

—Tarek Kamel

The IGF conference will address access to the Internet, notably local content reflecting different cultures and languages. Other key topics are cybercrime and safe Internet usage. The theme of the conference is “Creating Opportunities for All”, reflected in a speech by the United Nations Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang. “The voice of developing world must be heard,” he said.

ICANN, a non-profit, private organisation, currently limits the application for new domains to national governments or territories, although domain names will be available to individuals at a later date via national registries.



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November 8, 2009

China offers Africa financial aid including $10 billion in loans

China offers Africa financial aid including $10 billion in loans

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

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Members of the FOCAC
Image: Wangyunfeng.

China has offered Africa concessional loans worth US$10 (€6.5) billion as part of a host of new measures aimed at improving the economy of African nations. The announcement was made at the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Leaders of nearly 50 African countries are attending the two-day conference.

China had already stated today at the 3rd Conference of Chinese and African Entrepreneurs, held immediately before the FOCAC, that Chinese firms would be encouraged to invest in Africa, while both sides would work together to improve the tourism, telecommunications and finance industries. China also said that governments should work with businesses to ensure co-operation between China and Africa.

As well as the loans, made over three years, China will write off the debt of Africa’s poorest countries, build 100 African green energy facilities and systematically lower import duties on 95% of all African products exported to China. Another promise is a loan of one billion dollars aimed at small and medium sized businesses in Africa. There will also be efforts to promote each other’s culture and increased medical assistance to Africa. Medical assistance comes in the form of 500 million yuan (US$73.2 million) of goods for the 60 hospitals and malaria centers China has already built, as well as 3,000 doctors and nurses. Roads will also be improved.

China also plans to assist with satellite weather monitoring, to help combat desertification and work within the urban environment, all aimed at reducing global warming. The new energy facilities will focus on solar, biogas and small-scale hydroelectrical installations. Another new measure is a promise to aid African farmers to ensure the continent is fed, increasing the number of demonstrations of agricultural technology in Africa to 20 and sending 50 teams of agricultural technology experts to the continent. Training in agricultural technology will be provided to 2,000 people.

“The Chinese people cherish sincere friendship toward the African people, and China’s support to Africa’s development is concrete and real,” said co-chair Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao as the FOCAC opened up, adding “Whatever change that may take place in the world, our friendship with African people will not change.” He described this friendship as ‘unbreakable’. Two years ago China pledged US$5 (€3.37) billion at the last FOCAC in Beijing and now, according to Jiabao, “China is ready to deepen practical cooperation in Africa.”

Cquote1.svg We want more investment from China Cquote2.svg

—Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete

China has fulfilled its 2006 pledge, investing a total of US$7.8 (€5.26) billion in Africa last year alone. 49 African countries are represented at the FOCAC, which was created in 2000, although Jiabao noted that relations between China and Africa go back fifty years. China had already forgiven or reduced the debt for thirty nations at that FOCAC summit.

According to Chinese state-owned paper China Daily, trade between China and Africa increased by 45% last year, to give a total value of US$107 (€72.1) billion, a tenfold increase since 2001 and up from US$491 (€331) million in 2003. The Chinese have a 9.8% market share, the largest of any nation, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. China has paid for schools, hospitals, malaria clinics and Chinese scholarships for African students. 50 more schools are to be built and 1,500 people trained to staff them.

File photo of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao

Since 2006 Chinese energy firms have committed to spend at least US$16 (€10.8) billion securing African oil and gas. China’s Sinopec Group, an oil giant, bought up Addax Petroleum Corporation from its Swiss owners that year, gaining control of oilfields in Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon. China promised earlier this year to spend US$9 (€6) billion on infrastructure in the Congo in exchange for mineral deposits for mining operations.

Jean Ping, leader of the African Union, said the told those at the conference that the money is coming at an opportune time, because African growth was “totally compromised” by the global financial crisis. Ping said one of the lessons learned is that the world is paying for “the irresponsible and lax behavior” of large financial companies whose philosophy was to make short-term profits.

Cquote1.svg We thank China particularly for backing efforts by our countries to achieve peace and stability in Africa’s zones of conflict Cquote2.svg

—Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir

Not all Africans are happy with China’s increasing involvement in their continent. Trade practices are a concern for some, with a view that China exploits Africa for raw materials before selling back finished goods. Among these are Egyptian Trade and Industry Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid. Egypt is the richest nation in the Middle East and is discussing this perceived issue with China. Rachid told Bloomberg “What is a worry for me is if competition is unfair. That is where we are unhappy.” Jiabao described the trade as being based on “win-win programmes… and transparency.”

Others in Africa are delighted with the situation. “We want more investment from China,” Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete told the forum. Egypt’s own President Hosni Mubarak talked of “peace, security and growth,” and of “boosting cooperation between China and Africa.”

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Jiabao also used his speech to respond to criticisms that China worked with nations regardless of their human rights record, such as Sudan, whose President Omar al-Beahir is wanted on a warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. “Africa is fully capable of solving its own problems, in an African way,” he said, adding that “China has never attached any political strings […] to assistance to Africa.”

Beshir thanked China in a speech for diplomatic work in Sudan, including working to defuse the Darfur conflict, which the United Nations says has left 300,000 dead. “We express our deep appreciation for China’s efforts in backing the comprehensive peace agreement in Sudan and its peace efforts in Darfur,” he said, referring to a peace deal between the northern and southern parts of his country. “We thank China particularly for backing efforts by our countries to achieve peace and stability in Africa’s zones of conflict.” Jiabao said China was willing to work towards “the settlement of issues of peace and security,” in Africa.

A further criticism has been that China has brought in Chinese workers and used their own knowledge, instead of training locals. Jiabao’s speech indicated an intention to co-operate better in the fields of science and technology, as well as improve training for African students on technical courses.

“Why do some only criticise China?” asked Jiabao. “Is this a view representing African countries, or rather the view of Western countries?”



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  • “China’s premier visits Cairo ahead of China-Africa summit” — Wikinews, November 8, 2009

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November 7, 2009

China\’s premier visits Cairo ahead of China-Africa summit

China’s premier visits Cairo ahead of China-Africa summit

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Egypt
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File photo of Chinese Premier Wen Jibao

China’s Premier Wen Jiabao is in Cairo, Egypt, where he held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in preparation for the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation that begins on Sunday in Sharm el-Sheikh.

The leaders of 49 African countries are gathering in the Egyptian Red Sea resort for a two-day meeting to discuss economic and political cooperation with China.

At their talks, Wen and Mubarak discussed ways to improve bilateral relations. The Chinese leader also delivered a speech at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo. He spoke about ways to further enhance the friendly relations between China and the Arab world – and to promote the Middle East peace process.

“The relationship between Chinese civilisation and Islamic civilisation goes back years,” Wen said in his speech. “China is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. The basic policy of the Chinese government is to ensure equality among all ethnic groups and speed up the economic development of all regions.”

This July, clashes between Muslim minority Uighurs and the dominant Chinese group Han killed almost 200 in the Xinjiang region; vigilantes from the latter group started attacking Uighurs several days later.

Chinese officials said that they would punish those responsible for the attacks “severely”, and several hundred people were detained in a crackdown. The government’s treatment of the Uighur group was condemned by some countries abroad, with the United States saying that China was “[repressing] peaceful expressions of religious beliefs and political views.”

Wen, however, maintained that there was no discrimination against Muslims in China. “In China, more than 20 million people from 10 ethnic groups believe in Islam. They are all members of the big family of the Chinese nation,” he continued in his speech. “Their beliefs, culture and way of life are fully respected.”

At this second China-Africa summit, Wen is expected to offer African nations several billion dollars in credit and loans. To feed China’s appetite for raw materials, Chinese companies have invested billions of dollars in Africa. Trade between China and the continent also continues to grow.

The first China-Africa summit was held in 2006.



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June 30, 2008

Kenyan Prime Minister calls for suspension of Mugabe from African Union

Kenyan Prime Minister calls for suspension of Mugabe from African Union

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Monday, June 30, 2008

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Raila Odinga, the Kenyan Prime Minister, has said that Robert Mugabe should be suspended from the African Union until he allows free elections to take place in his country.

He has said that the AU “should suspend him [Mugabe] and send peace forces to Zimbabwe to ensure free and fair elections.”

Odinga continued, “[The] African Union will be setting a dangerous precedent if Mugabe is allowed to participate in its meetings,” he said. “Right now Mugabe is a crisis, they have no president with legitimacy to run the country.”

Robert Mugabe was recently under a large amount of pressure to postpone the election after the main opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out due to fears of violence. For example, Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations, yesterday called for the election to be postponed. He said that he “strongly supports the statement of the Chairman of SADC (Southern African Development Community) that conditions do not exist for a run-off election to be held at this time and that they should be postponed.”

Mugabe yesterday claimed the current results show that he will have a ‘sweeping victory’ in the unopposed presidential run-off elections. He announced his victory on one of the state run television networks. “The returns show that we are winning convincingly, that we have won in all the 26 constituencies in Harare, an MDC stronghold where we won in only one constituency in March.”

As an African Union summit began in Egypt today, Mugabe took his seat among other African heads of state hours after declaring victory in the election. His appearance at the summit generated different reactions, from being hailed as a “hero” by the President of Gabon, to U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro‘s remarks calling the situation in Zimbabwe “an extremely grave crisis”.

Mugabe, now in his sixth term as President, arrived in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday. Despite criticism from the African Union’s election observers, who said the election fell short of their standards, Mugabe was reportedly warmly received at the summit. One delegate, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mugabe was seen hugging other African leaders after the opening session.

Delegates at the convention discussed the elections, but largely avoided direct criticism of Mugabe or the government. Jakaya Kekwete, the Tanzanian President chairing the summit, said, “We would like to congratulate the Zimbabwean people for their successes but we would also like to express our commiserations for their suffering.” A draft resolution being considered for adoption on Tuesday calls for negotiations and an end to violence, but also does not directly criticize Mugabe or the election.

George Sibotshiwe, a spokesman for Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, said he hopes that the summit would take stronger measures during Tuesday sessions. “I would hope that the nature of what happened in Zimbabwe warrants a strong response and a lot of the leaders are taking our problems into consideration,” he said.



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May 3, 2008

Fiery Egyptian tourist bus crash kills nine

Fiery Egyptian tourist bus crash kills nine

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Egypt
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Nine people have died in a fiery tourist bus crash in Egypt on Thursday. The bus was carrying 40 North American and European passengers when it crashed in the Sinai peninsula.

The bus left the road when it skidded off a tight bend and struck a concrete barrier, rolling over and catching fire. The bus ended the roll back the right way up and was completely destroyed by the fire. One wheel lay twelve metres from the main wreckage and skid marks were left on the road. The coach had been travelling from a resort at nearby Sharm el-Sheikh to the capital Cairo when it crashed at Abu Zenima, with some reports suggesting the cause was a blowout on a tyre.

According to the Egyptian security official eight Russian nationals were killed, as was one of two drivers on board, both of whom were Egyptian. This was contradicted by Russian state owned service RIA Novosti, which stated just two Russians were among the dead. The Russian foreign ministry only said 16 Russians were injured and none killed, also contradicting the Egyptian security official who said only 14 people were injured in total. The Ukrainian foreign ministry said a Ukrainian woman had been killed and the Romanian foreign ministry said a 41-year-old Romanian woman was amongst the dead. The driver behind the wheel at the time survived the accident.

The crash occurred at 6:00 am (0300 GMT) about 70km (45 miles) from Suez, and many of the injured were rushed to hospital there. Traffic officials, security personnel, civil defence soldiers and ambulances all responded to the crash. In addition, the Azure Travel coach, like all Egyptian tour buses, had at least one armed police officer travelling on board.

Other injured passengers were taken to Sharm. Two Canadians and two British citizens are reported to be amongst the injured. The Brits are in a serious condition and one Canadian woman had her hand amputated. At least one person died in hospital. It is also reported that Italians were injured in the crash.

Road accidents claim around 6,000 lives and injure 30,000 every year in Egypt. This high accident rate is fed by poor maintenance and regulatory enforcement and reckless driving, with many roads allowing high rates of speed to be achieved. A fog-triggered pile-up killed 29 in February, and 23 died in March in a head-on collision between two lorries.



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