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Is Mubarak Heading to Germany?

Feb 8, 2011 – 6:41 AM
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Lauren Frayer

Lauren Frayer Contributor

Rumors are swirling that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may soon head to Germany for health checks, in a face-saving exit that would likely be heralded as victory for demonstrators calling for his ouster and would also give Egypt's new vice president some breathing room to implement U.S.-backed reforms.

It's unclear whether the 82-year-old leader has any immediate health problems. But such a trip, under the guise of medical reasons, could be one way for Mubarak to plan a graceful departure from the political turmoil surrounding him, though it's unclear whether he's amenable to it. Last week, he delivered a speech on state TV vowing to die on Egyptian soil -- a jab at those demanding his exile.
Is Mubarak Heading to Germany?
Amr Nabil, AP
Unconfirmed reports say Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could be going to Germany for medical reasons.

Sources at a luxury hospital in southwest Germany told Der Spiegel newspaper that they're preparing for Mubarak's possible arrival, under a plan hatched by the U.S. government that would have Mubarak fly to Germany for a "prolonged health check." U.S. officials refused to comment on the report, and a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel told Dow Jones that Germany has received no requests to grant Mubarak exile.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Munich for a security conference last week, but it's unclear whether she talked with German officials about any such plan. Asked about a possible transfer of power in Egypt, Clinton said, "There are certain things that have to be done in order to prepare," The New York Times reported.

The paper also quoted Amr Hamzawy, one of the so-called "wise men" mediating talks between Vice President Omar Suleiman and some of the protesters, as saying his group of Egyptian intermediaries has drawn up a plan that would see Mubarak transfer his powers to Suleiman and perhaps move to the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheik or embark on one of his annual medical leaves to Germany.
Max Grundig Clinic
The Image Gate / Getty Images
The Max-Grundig-Klinik Buhlerhohe is one of several hospitals that would host Mubarak if he goes to Germany.

According to Der Spiegel, plans for Mubarak to travel to Germany are far more concrete than previously thought. Talks are being held with several suitable hospitals, including the Max-Grundig-Klinik Buhlerhohe, a luxury spa and health center in the Germany's idyllic Black Forest, near the southwestern town of Buhl, the paper reported. The clinic's website says it has the "ambience of a luxury hotel."

It's unclear whether Mubarak has been to that clinic before, as the details of his previous trips to Germany have been shrouded in secrecy. Last spring he had his gallbladder removed at another facility in Heidelberg, amid rumors at the time that he was suffering from cancer.

Der Spiegel said Mubarak was already camping out at his Sharm el-Sheik resort residence, but Egypt's state-run MENA news agency said he met today with the visiting foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates.

Mubarak also set up a committee today to recommend constitutional changes that would relax presidential eligibility rules and impose term limits -- the first concrete step he has taken toward democratic reforms that have been the demands of thousands of protesters for the past two weeks, as well as Western diplomats. Mubarak also set up another committee to oversee implementation of all proposed reforms, Suleiman announced on state TV.

Protesters have complained that the Egyptian government's concessions -- with Mubarak setting up committees like those today, and Suleiman holding talks with some opposition leaders -- have fallen short of their demands. They want Mubarak's complete ouster and haven't been satisfied with his promise not to stand in September elections. Thousands are still camping out today in Cairo's Tahrir Square, vowing not to leave until Mubarak goes.

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In Germany, lawmakers in Merkel's governing coalition have said they're open to the idea of hosting Mubarak if it helps the situation on the ground in Egypt.

"We need a peaceful transition in Egypt. If Germany can make a constructive contribution in an international framework, we should receive Hosni Mubarak -- if he wants that," Andreas Schockenhoff, a senior member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union party, told Der Spiegel.

Elke Hof, the security policy spokeswoman for Germany's Free Democratic Party, a junior coalition member, told the publication, "I would welcome an early departure by Mubarak if this can contribute to stabilizing the situation in Egypt."

But some opposition lawmakers disagree.

"Care must be taken to ensure that Mubarak doesn't use a stay at a German hospital to duck his responsibilities toward the people of Egypt," Cem Ozdemir, co-leader of Germany's Green Party, told the Hannoversche Allgemeine newspaper. "Germany cannot become a luxurious sanctuary for deposed despots."
Filed under: World, Arab World Unrest
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