Mubarak to kick off European tour on Wednesday

President Hosni Mubarak will set out on a European tour on Wednesday, which will include visits to both Germany and Italy.

During his trip, the president is expected to brief European policymakers on the latest developments regarding recently-launched direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

An Egyptian diplomatic source said that Mubarak, during his visit to Italy, would inaugurate an Egyptian Academy in Rome and meet with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in light of the close cultural ties and solid economic relations between the two countries.

Mubarak is also scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, according to officials at the German embassy in Cairo. "Mubarak will meets with Merkel next Wednesday evening to discuss the Middle East issue," German ambassador to Egypt Michael Bock told reporters on Monday.

In March, the 82-year-old Mubarak met with Merkel during a visit to Germany where he also underwent gall bladder surgery at Heidelberg University Hospital, prompting rumors that his health was declining. Western intelligence agencies later reported that Mubarak would likely succumb to stomach and pancreas cancer within a year.

The president, however, has since made a number of high-profile media appearances, which have served to partially dispel the rumors. Most recently, Mubarak attended the launch of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington, along with a subsequent round of talks in Sharm el-Sheikh in which he participated in several bilateral meetings.

Mubarak, who assumed the presidency in 1981 following the assassination of President Anwar al-Sadat, has not appointed a vice president, and the issue of who will succeed him has remained ambiguous. Recent years have seen mounting conjecture that his 47-year-old son, Gamal–who currently holds a powerful position within the ruling National Democratic Party–could one day inherit the top post.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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