Monday’s papers: Healthcare reform, ElBaradei update

Al-Ahram runs with the headline, "Mubarak: Peace is the way for good relations between the Palestinians and the Israelis." Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, speaking on behalf of President Mubarak at the Arab League summit in Sirte, Libya, declared that "Peace depends on a just settlement of the Palestinian issue with all its components, and the return of all occupied land, including land in Syria and Lebanon."

Nazif reportedly expressed Mubarak’s position that Egypt will continue its efforts to reconcile Palestinian factions and insist on the importance of resolving the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue.

Al-Ahram reports that the Arab summit has released a statement announcing the formation of a "Higher Five Party Committee" to improve Arab relations through a system of joint Arab action. The committee is to include Libyian president Muammar Qadhafi, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Qatar’s Amir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and Egypt’s Mubarak, along with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.

Al-Akhbar’s coverage of the summit focuses on the the "plan to save Jerusalem," which includes a US$500 million fund and legation headquarters for the city, as well as an international conference to oppose Israeli plans.

Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar and Al-Gomhurriya all run front-page stories covering the well wishes president Mubarak received following his recovery from medical procedures and safe return from Germany. Al-Ahram runs the headline: "Local joy over the return of Mubarak to the homeland," and reports on the congratulations Mubarak received from the Arab leaders assembled at Sirte. Al-Akhbar reports on the communications received from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wishing the Egyptian president good health.

Al-Gomhurriya reports that Shura Council Speaker Safwat el-Sherif, who is also the secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), said that "everyone felt great joy when Mubarak’s plane landed on the homeleand. […] It was a moving moment on a personal, national, parliamentary, and party level, as well as all other levels."

According to Al-Gomhurriya’s report, el-Sherif added that the NDP received thousands of telegrams expressing joy over the president’s safe return, telegrams which "express the citizen’s attachment to their leader" and "attest to the simple citizen’s loyalty."

Al-Wafd leads with a report on Minister of Health Hatem el-Gabaly’s proposed new healthcare system. According to the report, el-Gabaly announced that the new system will require LE17 billion, and suggested new taxes to fund it. He also requested the assistance of parliament members in seeking alternative funding sources from the state budget.

According to Al-Wafd, el-Gabaly said he has met with Dr. Hamdy el-Sayed, head of the Egyptian Doctors Syndicate, to discuss imposing sales taxes on the more environmentally damaging industries as an alternative source of funds. El-Gabaly said no decisions would be made regarding national healthcare until it has a sufficient budget, which currently stands at LE1.5 billion, allocated specifically to patients suffering from cancer, kidney and liver failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, or those requiring heart surgery.

Al-Shorouq and Al-Dostour give top-story status to their latest updates on the campaign of Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and possible candidate in the upcoming presidential elections. After visiting and praying in the Hussein mosque on Friday, ElBaradei planned to visit the Coptic Cathedral of Abbasiya for the feast of Christ’s resurrection on Saturday, according to Al-Shorouq, following an invitation he received from Coptic leader Shoukry Azer, president of the committee to protect social insurance.

ElBaradei stated that he hoped to make use of the visit to listen to Coptic Christians and that he would arrive at the church with no private protection and walk alongside Kifaya movement founder George Ishaq and journalist Hamdi Qandil to avoid any confrontation with state security.

According to Al-Shorouq, ElBaradei met with Coptic activists in a closed session at his home yesterday morning, and also stated that he now has the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, who support the principle of a civil state. ElBaradei met with artists and filmmakers following the meeting–including directors Yousry Nasrallah, Tawfik Saleh, Dawoud Abd el-Sayed, Khaled Youssef and Ali Badrakhan, as well as actress Naglaa Fathy and journalist Hamdi Qandil–who signed a statement in support of ElBaradei’s campaign.

Al-Dostour adds in its report that ElBaradei posted a video on the internet yesterday calling on citizens to join his National Association for Change, stating that Egypt needs a democractic system based on the rule of the people, and that such change requires democracy and social justice.

Egypt’s newspapers:

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

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