Former Egyptian Military Official Denies Plan to Sabotage Ethiopian Dam; Blames Tensions on Zenawi

7 Sep 2012 by OOSKAnews Correspondent
CAIRO, Egypt

A former senior Egyptian military official on September 6 denied that Egypt had a contingency plan to sabotage the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

“The claims made by Stratfor intelligence firm about a contingency plan to bomb or sabotage the Ethiopian Dam are unfounded,” former Commander of the Air Forces and current Minister of Military Production Reda Hafez told reporters.

Wikileaks on August 29 published emails dating back to 2010 from the Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon and a high-level Egyptian security official based in Cairo, whichdescribed how the Egyptian government prepared a contingency plan to deal with Ethiopian dam construction along the Blue Nile. The plan, according to the Wikileaks data, included taking military action.

“The website didn’t mention the names of security officials who spoke about this plan,” Hafez noted. He stressed that these leaked data were meant to “drive a wedge between Egypt and Ethiopia.”

“There are some countries that do not like to see a thaw in Egyptian-Ethiopian relations. They don’t want to see a diplomatic settlement of the Ethiopian dams issue,” he warned.

Hafez blamed the tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia on late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

“Zenawi was part of the problem. He always talked about the possibility of wars with Egypt because of Nile water,” he said.

Hafez categorically rejected the claim that Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir had agreed to allow Egypt to construct a small airbase in Kusti, as a launching point for Egyptian commandos to destroy Ethiopian water facilities on the Blue Nile.

“Egypt never thought about launching air strikes against Ethiopian dams. I was the commander of the armed forces at that time and can confirm there was no intention to do that,” he said.

The Renaissance Dam project has long been a point of contention between Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa. Therefore, a dam assessment committee was formed a few months ago to assess the negative impact of the dam on the flow of Nile water to the two downstream countries.

Ethiopian authorities will provide the experts on the committee with all information about the dam. The assessment of the negative and positive impacts of the dam and ways of dealing with them will take from six to nine months.

Then, the three countries will declare a final position on the project. The decision reached by the committee will be binding on all of them.

Meanwhile, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Store pledged to help settle disputes over distribution of Nile water among upstream and downstream countries.

Store, who met with Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil in Cairo on August 6, also said Norway would not fund projects that might pose a threat to Egypt’s water security.

Norway is one of the major funders of water projects in upstream Nile countries.