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Cairo-Doha rapprochement untainted by Al-Jazeera report

Egypt refutes Al-Jazeera report alleging Egyptian "concerns" over Tunisian syndrome, says ties with Qatar unaffected

Dina Ezzat , Monday 17 Jan 2011
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An Egyptian official and an Al-Jazeera source said that rapprochement between Cairo and Doha continues, despite Egyptian authorities' disappointment with a report aired yesterday by the satellite channel, which said Egypt was undertaking measures for fear of the spread of Tunisian unrest.

"We are not going to blow things out of proportions, but we let Al-Jazeera know very well that we are not comfortable with inaccurate reporting," said the Egyptian official.

Meanwhile, a source at Al-Jazeera said that the Cairo bureau is pursuing its operation normally and that its chief, who is currently in Sharm El-Sheikh, is still there, doing his work.

The controversial report, which was compiled by the recently appointed Al-Jazeera Cairo Bureau Chief, Abdel-Fattah Fayed, suggested that President Hosni Mubarak was planning to meet with the Higher Council of Defence in anticipation of the Tunisian popular revolt being echoed in Egypt. The report further suggested that the president is acting to reverse earlier plans to increase the prices of fuel and other basic commodities in order to prevent public anger.

The piece was aired three times in the on-the-hour Al-Jazeera news report. Fayed attributed the news to reliable sources, but did not specify the date or venue of the reported meeting.

Al-Jazeera removed the report within less than three hours, shortly after Presidential Spokesman Suliman Awwad – who rarely goes public to deny news – told the official Middle East News Agency (MENA) that Al-Jazeera's report was completely inaccurate.

"The president is in Sharm El-Sheikh, preparing for the Second Economic Summit which he is set to preside on Wednesday," Awwad said.

According to the spokesman, there were no additional, unusual plans for a meeting between Mubarak and the cabinet ministers, and the presidential schedule is proceeding as normal.

Moreover, Awwad "categorically" denied any plans to increase prices or taxes, as was suggested by the Al-Jazeera report. "There were no such plans in the first place to have them reversed," Awwad stated.

Of the many recent reports and opinion articles that attempt to draw parallels between Tunisia and Egypt, Al-Jazeera's was the only one commented on by the spokesman.

Al-Jazeera's reporting on Egypt had been 'made more regime-sensitive' recently, in the wake of President Mubarak's visit to Doha late last year, where he and the Emir of Qatar Hamad Ben Khalifa agreed to start a new page in bilateral cooperation.
 

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