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May 26, 2010

Egypt launches diplomatic flurry to contain Nile crisis

Senior Egyptian officials left for Khartoum on May 19 amid a diplomatic flurry that will see several African leaders in Cairo in the coming weeks seeking to contain the region's water-sharing crisis.

Mohammed Nasredine Allam, Egypt's minister for water resources and irrigation, is heading to Sudan for talks on Nile water sharing after five upstream countries signed a deal that Cairo and Khartoum rejected, the official MENA news agency reported.

Allam, accompanied by senior foreign ministry officials, is expected to discuss with his Sudanese counterpart, Kamal Ali, "ways for both countries to maintain their rights (to Nile water) based on international agreements."

Under a 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan, they get the lion's share of the water flow.

On May 19, Kenya became the fifth country to sign a new treaty -- after Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda -- for what is claimed to be an equitable sharing of river waters, despite strong opposition from Egypt and Sudan.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga was due in Egypt on May 22 for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.

On May 29, Congolese President Joseph Kabila is due to visit Egypt and in June Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza is also expected in Cairo, MENA said.

In June, Egyptian Minister of Agriculture Amin Abaza and Investment Minister Mahmud Mohiedine will head to Ethiopia and Uganda for talks with officials there, MENA said.

Egypt has repeatedly claimed its "historic right" to the Nile water and threatened legal action to preserve its right to the water on which its 80 million people depend.

The upstream countries want to be able to implement irrigation and hydropower projects in consultation with Egypt and Sudan, but without Egypt being able to exercise the veto power it was given by a 1929 colonial-era treaty with Britain.


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