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Mubarak to Undergo Surgery in Germany

June 20, 2004|From Reuters

CAIRO — Amid persistent rumors about his health, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 76, will go to Germany today to have an operation for a slipped disk, an official source said Saturday.

Health Minister Mohammed Awad Afifi Tag Din, quoted by the official Middle East News Agency, said the surgery scheduled for Monday was an operation to remove displaced cartilage by inserting a microscopic endoscope.

Mubarak's doctors had given him two choices -- either to treat the slipped disk with medication and physiotherapy over a long period or the quick operation, he added.

"It's a simple procedure. It would take about an hour and within the first day you start walking normally" and recover within two days, said Bassem Wahib, an orthopedic surgeon at New Kasr Aini Teaching Hospital in Cairo.

Mubarak has delayed several meetings with important visitors this month amid rumors about his health.

He put off a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom because of a sprained ankle, an official source said at the time, and a meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Korei last week also took place later than expected.

But state television showed the president in apparently good health on Wednesday, standing and talking to reporters about Egyptian plans to help the Palestinians with security.

Another official source said last week that Mubarak had had a health problem recently but had recovered.

Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt since 1981, has never appointed anyone to the vice presidency -- the route to the presidency in the two previous transfers of power in Egypt.

If Mubarak died in office, the speaker of parliament would take over as interim head of state while power brokers decided on a successor to be endorsed by popular referendum.

Wahib said the doctors would probably insert an endoscope about the diameter of a pencil into Mubarak's lower back to remove the disk. "There should be no complications," he said.

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