Egypt's trade minister flies back to Egypt before explosion at Davos

AFP, Salma Hussein, Thursday 27 Jan 2011

Gamal Mubarak and Minister of Finance Youssef Boutros Ghali miss this year's event

(Photo: Reuters)

"I did not feel the explosion, which apparently occurred due to technical causes," Egyptian businessman Shafiq Gabr told Ahram Online from Davos. "All the Egyptian delegation members are fine."

Police said a "small explosion" went off Thursday in a hotel at the Swiss alpine resort of Davos, where global political and business leaders have gathered for the World Economic Forum (WEF).

"A small explosion of unknown origin," occurred in the basement of the Morosani Posthotel in Davos, said a cantonal police spokesman. "No one was injured and material damages were minimal," he added.

The Egyptian minister of trade and industry was already on the plane on his way back to Egypt, following widespread protests in Egypt in recent days.

Minister of Finance Youssef Boutros Ghali missed this year's event. His spokesman declined to specify the reason.

Gamal Mubarak, who is a regular attendant of the elite economic event, was also absent from this year's Egyptian delegation.

A number of high executives in the private and public sectors are still present at the forum.

Some 2,500 political and industry leaders are gathered in the small alpine village for the forum which ends on Sunday.

Arab officials attending the forum pleaded on Wednesday for radical reforms in the region.

“The Arab citizen is angry and we feel broken as citizens. Reform is the name of the game, and reform has to happen now all over the Arab world,” Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, told Reuters.

A Saudi royal family member said the recent ousting of Tunisia’s longtime ruler after weeks of violent protests has turned the spotlight onto neighboring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, former intelligence chief who also served as ambassador to Britain and the U.S., told Reuters Insider television he was not sure about Mubarak’s future.

“In Egypt, I really can’t say where this is going to go,” he said in an interview. "Whether they can catch up as leaders to what the population is aiming [for] is still to be seen.”

“I think developments in Tunis took everybody by surprise,” said Faisal, adding “Each country has its own criteria and its own dynamics. I think we will have to wait a day or two until things clear up to wait and see how these demonstrations [in Egypt] are going to go.”

As protests continued in Egypt, the country’s Trade and Industry Minister Rachid Mohammad Rachid cancelled his visit to the WEF without giving a reason for his decision, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.

A Davos panel of Mideast economic experts convened separately to tackle reform. The panel generally agreed the region needs better education, more transparent regimes, and cleverer business strategies.

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