Mubarak rejects foreign pressure

Mubarak rejects foreign pressure

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has said he opposes any interference in his country”s affairs from abroad.

His comments came during a speech to close his ruling party”s annual conference in which he also called on his government to do more to address the problems of Egypt”s poor.

“We protect Egypt”s sovereignty and independence and reject any pressure and conditions, and we refuse any interference in our affairs,” Mubarak told 6,000 delegates from his National Democratic Party (NDP) in Cairo on Tuesday.

The president”s comments are an apparent reference to proposed US legislation to cut the country”s aid unless it stops committing human-rights abuses.

Help the poor

Earlier this year, the US House of Representatives proposed legislation that would withhold $200 million in military aid until Cairo takes steps to curb police abuse, reform its judicial system and stop arms smuggling into the neighbouring Gaza Strip.

Egypt receives $1.3bn worth of military aid from the US annually, along with large amounts of civilian aid, the second largest recipient of American aid in the world after Israel.

Though Egypt has been critical of the proposed legislation, the Bush administration in recent years has largely backed down from pushing Egypt towards what it calls democratic reform.

Mubarak, who turns 80 next year, also used his speech to urge his government to do more to help his country”s lower-income families who are suffering from rampant inflation induced by new economic policies.

“Social justice is an essential pillar of our general policy,” he said.

But the four-day conference offered few surprises and no major leadership reshuffle. It gave few indications of what the party, or Egypt, would look like after Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for more than 25 years, leaves office.

Mubarak”s son Gamal on Monday deflected a renewed spate of questioning as to whether he would eventually take over the reins of power from his father.

Son and heir?

The 43-year-old former investment banker, who heads the party”s powerful politburo, said he was focused solely on parliamentary elections due to be held in three years time.

Nevertheless, NDP members voted on Saturday to create a “higher committee” widely perceived as putting Gamal a step closer to the presidency.

The body will nominate the party”s next presidential candidate and incorporates the influential policies secretariat which Gamal heads.

Without the committee, the NDP could only have put Hosni Mubarak forward for the next presidential election in 2011.