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Analysis: Sick Mubarak setting up son as successor

    President Mubarak chats to his doctors at a hospital in Germany, as broadcast on Egyptian television
    President Mubarak chats to his doctors at a hospital in Germany, as broadcast on Egyptian television

    Egyptian television showed footage of President Hosni Mubarak in a German hospital following an operation on Tuesday, to scotch rumours that he was dying.

    Mr Mubarak is recovering from a successful operation to remove benign cists from his gallbladder. Israeli experts believe that after his return, the president will intensify efforts to ensure his son's succession.

    Mr Mubarak, 81, left Egypt two weeks ago to undergo the operation in Heidelberg, Germany. Despite periodical reports on the operation's success, rumours of him being close to death or dying have been rife in Cairo and other Arab capitals.

    The footage shown on Egyptian television showed the president in a dressing gown, talking to his doctors. Egyptian television also broadcast a press conference with one of his surgeons who said that Mr Mubarak is capable of walking around and eating, though he did not say when the president would return to Egypt.

    Israeli experts believe that despite the rumours, President Mubarak's health is now relatively stable. At the same time, he is preparing for the succession of his second son, Jamal, to the presidency, perhaps as soon as the elections next year. They also noted that the administration seems stable and that Mr Mubarak temporarily handed power to PM Ahmed Nazif before leaving for Germany.

    Mr Mubarak underwent a personal crisis 10 months ago when his eldest grandson, 12-year-old Mohammed, died in unclear circumstances. Since then he has drastically reduced the number of his public appearances and was seen by many to be suffering from depression. Most Israeli experts are now of the opinion that after three decades of leading his country, Mr Mubarak is now preparing his retirement. The preferred successor, 47-year-old Jamal Mubarak, has been promoted in recent years by his father to a number of senior positions in the ruling National Democratic Party. He is currently the secretary general of the party's influential policy committee. Both Mubaraks have in the past denied any plans for a succession.

    Other possible candidates - should Mr Mubarak decide not to run for a sixth term of office - are current Security Minister General Omar Suleiman, the Arab League Secretary General; former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa; and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed el-Baradei.

    While all these candidates have made critical statements regarding Israel in the past, none of them are expected to cancel the peace treaty between the two countries.

    General Suleiman has made numerous visits to Israel in recent years and has close ties to a number of Israeli leaders. Jamal Mubarak has refrained from open ties with Israelis but he has repeatedly praised the late President Anwar Sadat's decision to make the peace treaty with Israel.

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