Egypt demands Ethiopia halt Nile dam, upping stakes
CAIRO | Wed Jun 5, 2013 4:07pm EDT
(Reuters) - Egypt will demand Ethiopia stop building a dam on one of the main tributaries of the Nile, a senior government aide said on Wednesday, ramping up a confrontation over the project that Egypt fears will affect its main source of water.
Ethiopia set off alarm bells in Cairo last week when it began diverting a stretch of the river to make way for the $4.7 billion hydroelectric plant.
Countries that share the river have argued over the use of its waters for decades - and analysts have repeatedly warned that the disputes could eventually boil over into war.
The high stakes involved were underlined on Monday when senior Egyptian politicians were caught on camera advising President Mohamed Mursi to take hostile action to stop the project, and one went as far as suggesting Cairo destroy the dam.
Egypt, which has been involved in years of troubled diplomacy with Ethiopia and other upstream countries, said Ethiopia must now halt work on the dam.
"Demanding that Ethiopia stop construction of the dam it plans to build on the Blue Nile will be our first step," said Pakinam el-Sharkawy, the presidential aide for political affairs, in comments carried on the state news agency MENA.
"The national committee that will be formed to deal with this issue will determine the steps that Egypt has to take."
No one from the Ethiopian government was immediately available to comment.CAUGHT ON CAMERA
Senior Egyptian politicians called in to discuss the crisis with Mursi on Monday were apparently unaware their meeting was being broadcast live on television.
The leader of Egypt's Ghad party, Ayman Nour, suggested spreading false reports that Egypt was building up its air power.
"We can 'leak' news information claiming that Egypt plans to buy advanced aircraft to increase its aerial presence etc., to put pressure, even if not realistic, on diplomatic discourse," he said.
Younis Makhyoun, leader of the Salafi Islamist al-Nour party, was filmed saying Egypt should back rebels in Ethiopia or, as a last resort, destroy the dam.
The broadcast triggered widespread ridicule, particularly among Egypt's vast army of users of social networks.http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/05/us-egypt-ethiopia-dam-idUSBRE9541EQ20130605