Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
25 - 31 January 2001
Issue No.518
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Breaking down walls

PRIME MINISTER Atef Ebeid and Iraqi Vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan agreed on Thursday to set up a free trade area that will open the door to warmer relationship with the Arab world's prodigal brother, reports Mona El-Fiqi. Egypt has already signed similar agreements with Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Morocco and Jordan.

By signing the protocol, which will eliminate customs on certain goods traded between the two countries, Egypt is chipping away at the beleaguered sanctions regime imposed by the United Nations in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. A ban on flights to Iraq has in recent months been increasingly challenged and, in fact, ignored by the international community under the banner of humanitarian aid.

The agreement was made under the umbrella of the oil-for-food arrangement sanctioned by the UN.

Partners at last

AFTER four years of tough negotiation and another year of careful consideration, the Egyptian government has decided to sign an association agreement with the European Union (EU). The signing is expected to take place tomorrow in Brussels, where the EU has its headquarters. Egyptian Ambassador to Brussels Raouf Saad will sign on behalf of Egypt, along with Peter Zangl, director of the Mediterranean and Middle East directorate at the EU.

Speaking to reporters, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa was confident that former snags in the signing had been resolved, saying that "the rest will be dealt with within the framework of the partnership that now binds Egypt and the EU."

In the works since 1995, the final agreement will cover Egyptian-EU cooperation in the fields of economics and trade and replace a cooperation agreement that has provided the umbrella for Egyptian-EU economic relations since 1977. Once signed, a temporary agreement will go into effect by which Egyptian products will have zero-tariff access to the European market. After a grace period of some 12 to 16 years, Egypt will have to offer EU products similar terms. The partnership will also entitle Egypt to EU assistance in industry modernisation, human resources development and trade enhancement. Ratification of this agreement is not expected before two years. (see Economy)

Second time around

SALAHEDDIN Mohsen, a 52-year-old formerly unknown writer, went on trial Saturday before a State Security Court for a second time on charges of deriding Islam and the Prophet Mohamed. The court will hand down its sentence on 27 January. Mohsen was first brought to trial in June 2000, when the court found him guilty and handed down a suspended sentence of six months imprisonment on 7 August. Explaining the reason for the light sentence, the court said it did not want to turn Mohsen into a hero.

The court's decision was then contested by the prosecution at the office for the ratification of court sentences. On 14 December, the sentence was thrown out and a re-trial ordered.

The hidden door

A ROBOT some 19 centimetres in height will soon make a pioneering trip into the inner sanctum of the Great Pyramid, reports Nevine El-Aref. The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) is considering installing a mini-robot in the burial chamber of Khufu, the second time a robot will enter the Great Pyramid. The first, assisted by German experts, entered the burial chamber six years ago and revealed a small limestone gate beneath a room previously thought to be the queen's burial chamber. The second robot will hopefully reveal what lies behind the mysterious door.

"The door may hide the original burial chamber of King Khufu," said Zahi Hawass, director-general of the Giza Plateau. Evidence suggests that during the fifth year of his reign, Khufu declared himself a god -- defying the belief that a Pharaoh becomes divine upon his death. This would explain why Khufu constructed his burial chamber inside the pyramid instead of beneath it, as was the practice at the time.

Deadly engagements

SOCIAL conventions can make marriage a costly endeavour. Take for example, the much-coveted (and often bank-breaking) wedding ring, in the name of which Wael Salam, a 27-year-old cement worker, was driven to murder. Salam was found guilty this week of luring his co-worker, Haitham Omar, to a remote area of Luxor, where he hit him over the head with an iron bar. Omar was stabbed repeatedly, and his body was found in an open sewer. The objective of the dreadful crime: LE490 to buy a ring for Salam's fiancée.

Furthering the claim that want of money can only bring calamity in matters of love is the death of Youssef Sayed. Sayed was having an argument with his wife, Souad, 23 years his junior, over household expenses. Tempers boiled and Souad was pushed over the edge. She punched her husband in the face and he fell to the floor, dying instantly of heart failure.

I don't know you!

SURELY you've seen that Doris Day and Rock Hudson movie where the two have too much to drink and wake up the next morning, arch enemies yet married and in bed together. For those of you who missed the Hollywood original, there was the Egyptian re-make starring Adel Imam and Mervat Amin. Life can imitate art, they say, which could explain the case of a young woman who has just filed for divorce claiming she woke up from a New Year's drinking binge to find herself married [no details, however, were released on how this actually happened]. In the movies, Dorris and Mervat continue on in marital bliss and lived happily ever after. The ending of the real life drama remains to be seen.

Compiled by Fatemah Farag

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