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Passings / Abdel-Halim Abu Ghazala

Former defense minister of Egypt

September 08, 2008|From Times Wire Reports

Abdel-Halim Abu Ghazala, 78, Egypt's former defense minister and a veteran of Arab-Israeli wars who was once touted as a possible successor to President Hosni Mubarak, died late Saturday at a Cairo military hospital from complications related to throat cancer, the Middle East News Agency reported.

Abu Ghazala became minister of defense in 1981 shortly before the assassination of President Anwar Sadat during a military parade. Like Mubarak, Abu Ghazala was sitting next to Sadat when he was assassinated but was unharmed in the attack.

As defense minister, he worked with Mubarak to hold together the 1979 peace treaty with Israel that Sadat signed with former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the face of popular opposition.

Through much of the 1980s, Abu Ghazala was considered the most influential figure in Egypt after Mubarak because of the vast power the Egyptian military wielded in the country's political and economic life.

Abu Ghazala joined the military in 1948 as a cadet in the Egyptian military academy and participated, along with Sadat, in the 1952 coup against King Farouk that brought Gamel Abdel Nasser to power.

In the late 1970s, he served as Cairo's military attache in Washington, where he developed close ties with the U.S. military. In 1989, Mubarak moved Abu Ghazala from minister of defense to the ceremonial post of presidential assistant. In February 1993, Abu Ghazala resigned and focused on writing military books.

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