Busy agenda awaits president
Following his recovery from a successful back operation in Germany, President Hosni Mubarak is set to come home to an agenda full of domestic and foreign concerns
President Hosni Mubarak is scheduled to return to Egypt "within days", after recovering from a slipped disc operation he underwent in Germany on Saturday, reports Gamal Essam El-Din. During a phone call with National Women's Council Secretary General Farkhonda Hassan, Mrs Suzanne Mubarak said the president was in excellent health and would be back in Cairo "within days".
Mrs Mubarak's assessment confirmed press reports quoting Michael Mayer, the German doctor treating the president in Munich, as saying that President Mubarak was no longer in pain and he could now walk and move normally. If his recovery continues to progress at this pace with no unexpected developments, Mayer said, Mubarak could leave the hospital as early as Friday. Mayer also said that Mubarak was in "high spirits". He was "doing better day by day, and his capacity to leave bed and walk in such a very short time will help a lot in accelerating his full recovery from the back surgery."
Mubarak was flown to Germany on 20 June after he developed severe back pain that made it extremely difficult for him to stand or walk. Although expected to undergo back surgery on 21 June, Mayer and other doctors at Munich's Orthozentrum clinic, however, decided that he wait for several days to see whether physio- and other therapy would be an effective treatment.
Health Minister Awad Tageddin, who accompanied the president to Germany, said Mubarak's medical team informed him on 26 June that surgery to remove part of an intervertebral disc that was pinching a nerve and causing pain was a better option than continuing with just physiotherapy. Mayer explained that physiotherapy alone would not lead to a quick improvement in Mubarak's condition. "President Mubarak approved at once and said he was ready for the operation, which was conducted successfully and without any complications," Mayer said.
A week prior to Mubarak's sudden departure for Germany, Al-Ahram Chief Editor Ibrahim Nafie wrote that a major cabinet reshuffle was set to take place at the end of June or the beginning of July. Mohamed Ragab, the ruling National Democratic Party's (NDP) Shura Council speaker, said Mubarak's surgery in Germany had, of course, put talk of cabinet changes on hold. Ragab said, however, that, "as soon as he comes back from Germany in good health, cabinet changes will be the first file President Mubarak deals with."
Actually, the cabinet did change during Mubarak's trip. While in Germany, the president told NDP Secretary- General Safwat El-Sherif that he was being nominated to head the Shura Council. As a result, El-Sherif resigned from the Information Minister post he had held for 22 years.
In a 25 June press release, Zakaria Azmi, President Mubarak's chief of staff, said Mubarak was closely following domestic and international developments from the clinic in Munich. "He is engaged in running the country and was issuing instructions and directives to several state officials," Azmi said. Mubarak entrusted Culture Minister Farouk Hosni with overseeing the Information Ministry, and received reports from both El-Sherif and Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher.
Azmi also indicated that Mubarak received a phone call from intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who briefed the president on his visit to Palestine and Israel last week, and his meetings with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and a number of Israeli officials. Egypt's initiative to broker a full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip will be another top item on Mubarak's agenda upon his return.
Azmi also said that Mubarak spoke on the phone with People's Assembly speaker Fathi Sorour, Defence Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Interior Minister Habib El-Adli.
Before leaving Cairo on 20 June, President Mubarak delegated some of his constitutional powers to Prime Minister Atef Ebeid.