Today’s papers: Burning yachts, Mubaraks in Angola

News of storms and strong winds along the Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts dominated the news today. State-owned Al-Ahram reported the closure of ten ports, including one in Alexandria and nine along the Red Sea from Port Tawfiq to Safaga. In its coverage of a related incident, the main front page headline read “Devastating fire in Suez dockyard for yacht maintenance.” Twenty yachts are reported to have caught on fire due to strong winds which blew flames across the anchorage.

State-owned, independent, and opposition papers all ran headlines pertaining to the Africa Cup of Nations final match between Egypt and Ghana, which kicks off today at 6 PM. Al-Ahram and state-owned Al-Akhbar both underlined the fact that President Mubarak’s sons were leading a delegation of fans and supporters in Angola. “Alaa and Gamal Mubarak to lead the fans of the national team in Luanda,” announced a headline on Al-Ahram’s front page.

Independent Al-Dostour and opposition Al-Wafd dedicated front page headlines to news of US-based Coptic associations calling on Copts in Egypt to vote against President Hosni Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood. The US-based groups issued a declaration on Friday urging Coptic Christians not to vote for any candidate from the ruling National Democratic Party or from the Muslim Brotherhood during upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.

The declaration alleged that the ruling regime and its security services were complicit in the murders of six copts outside a church in Naga Hammadi on 6 January, Coptic Christmas Eve. Al-Wafd reported that a few Coptic figures in Egypt endorsed the declaration, while others “refused to accept dictates from abroad.”

Independent Al-Shorouq published a front page headline that read, “Mubarak calls on NDP to move ‘among the people’ in preparation for elections.” Al-Shorouq wrote of how the ruling party is considering new approaches to reach out to citizens, and developing action plans in preparation for parliamentary elections in November. The paper’s front page also featured an article about a new report issued by the French senate describing the Egyptian populace as “boiling, but not exploding.” The senate’s report underscored the looming threat of increased unemployment in light of deteriorating economic conditions in the country.

State-owned Al-Gomhurriya focused its spotlight on the African Union summit which begins on Sunday in Addis Ababa, with the theme of developing information and communications technologies. President Mubarak will not attend this summit, but Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit is due to deliver the Egyptian leader’s message to 35 heads of state and governments. Controversies abound regarding the chairmanship of this summit, which Libyan President Muammar Qadhafi is attempting to retain for the second consecutive year amid resistance from the President of Malawi.

Al-Gomhurriya also ran a short article on its front page saying that Egyptian diplomatic efforts have produced positive results in the Nile Basin water resource initiative. As such, Egypt’s annual quota of water will reportedly not diminish, and the Nile Basin countries have allegedly shelved the idea of resorting to international arbitration in water disputes among Nile Basin states.

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