Sunday’s papers: Dubious nuclear claims, strained relations with Coptic church and rise in newborns

An Associated Press report on an international investigation into Egypt’s nuclear ambitions makes headlines in Egyptian newspapers on Sunday. Highlighted on Al-Shorouk’s front page, the report says the International Atomic Energy Agency does not believe Egypt is enriching uranium for civil purposes. “Uranium atoms found were enriched nearly to a level that could feed nuclear rockets," the report quoted IAEA sources. "These atoms have been under investigation since they were discovered in 2007 and 2008.”

The stated enrichment levels were allegedly found in Egypt’s oldest nuclear site at Inshas. Egypt categorically denied the report. Al-Shorouk quotes an anonymous source from the Ministry of Electricity as arguing such reports aim to thwart Egypt’s peaceful nuclear program. In 2007, President Hosni Mubarak announced Egypt would resume its nuclear program to generate electricity. Earlier this year, he gave the green light to proceed with construction of the nation’s first nuclear station along the northwestern Mediterranean coast.

In other news, both privately-owned and state-run papers emphasize the government's recent refutation of press reports that claimed Egyptian authorities arrested members of a terrorist cell plotting attacks in Sinai. In fact, “things are very stable,” state flagship Al-Ahram quotes north Sinai Governor Al-Sayyed Mourad Mouafi.

Such reports have a negative impact on tourism, Mouafi added, according to Al-Ahram. Al-Shorouk says Egyptian authorities have tightened security measures in south Sinai in light of Israeli warnings that terrorists will target foreign tourists in the Sinai peninsula.

Israeli Haaretz daily on Friday reported Israel’s National Security Council issued a terror and kidnapping threat, warning Israelis against traveling to Egypt and Sinai. In light of these warnings, Egyptian authorities have established several checkpoints along roads leading to Red Sea resorts of Taba and Nuweiba, according to Al-Shorouk. In the meantime, the municipal head of Sharm al-Sheikh assures Al-Shorouk hotel occupancy has exceeded 100 percent, dismissing any impact of the “Israeli rumors” on tourism.

In more developments, Al-Shorouk sheds light on Egypt’s sectarian portfolio. The private daily highlights a decision by the Coptic Church not to celebrate the 39th ordination anniversary for Pope Shenouda III as the patriarch of the church. The paper cites strained relations between the church and the ruling regime as the main reason behind this decision. The strain stems from the ruling National Democratic Party’s decision to field only 10 of 700 Coptic candidates on its list and the regime’s alleged laxity towards Salafi protests that accused the church of holding Christian women converted to Islam, according to Al-Shorouk.

The report also cites the bombing of Our Lady for Salvation church in Baghdad earlier this month as one of the factors that dissuaded the church from holding the annual ritual. Following the attack, the responsible militants on Jihadi websites vowed to target Egypt's Coptic community if female Muslim converts are not released from detainment in monasteries.

And in yet more news, Al-Wafd opposition newspaper exploits the release of a new census report to pick on the NDP-dominated government. The paper emphasizes the latest report published by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics which notes that the number of newborns increased by 8.1 percent in 2009 at a rate of 253.1 children per hour and 4.2 per minute.

Al-Wafd cites these figures as an evidence of the government’s failure to contain a resilient demographic boom. The headline chosen by the paper reads: “CAPMAS announces the failure of government planning policies.” The report also reveals a rise in death rates. Egyptian deaths recorded in 2009 reached 476,600 versus 461,900 in 2008. As to infant mortality, it decreased by 1.6 percent, adds the report.

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 el-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

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