Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will not be among 3,000 people to attend U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic speech shortly after noon Thursday, a possible bad omen for the American leader trying to win respect in the Muslim world.
The official reason for his absence is the death of his 12-year-old grandson, but the child died in mid-May after health complications. Mubarak’s eldest son Jamal will stand in for his father, according to the independent Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm. Jamal is viewed as the future heir to take over as president of Egypt.
Voice of Israel government radio analysts noted that "nothing is a coincidence in Egyptian politics” and added that it was very suspicious that the Egyptian president also was not on hand at the airport to receive his American counterpart.
Mubarak has not been seen in public since his grandson’s death. He met with President Obama Thursday morning for discussions on Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and the Palestinian Authority, according to Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. Asked by reporters if they talked about Iran, President Obama replied, "You name it" and we discussed it.
President Obama has taken pains to appease Mubarak, calling him a “force for stability’ in the Middle East despite the lack of freedom that has marked the country.
Cairo is under virtual siege as thousands of security forces are deployed throughout the city, Citizens have been ordered to close their shops in the area of Cairo University, where President Obama will deliver a 50-minute speech.
At least 200 foreign students already have been detained by police, and all students were told to stay at home in order to prevent any protests.
Hundreds of plainclothes police officers rounded up a few dozen people who tried to stage a peaceful protest Wednesday night.