Death of the ‘accidental pharaoh’: Arab and world leaders react to passing of Hosni Mubarak

Hosni Mubarak died on Tuesday aged 91. He had led Egypt for 30 years. (AFP)
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Updated 26 February 2020

Death of the ‘accidental pharaoh’: Arab and world leaders react to passing of Hosni Mubarak

  • Hosni Mubarak never expected to lead Egypt … but the assassination of Anwar Sadat propelled him into a presidency that lasted for 30 years

CAIRO: Middle East and world leaders paid tribute on Tuesday to Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian air force officer who never expected to become president but ruled his country for 30 years.

Mubarak, who was 91, took office in October 1981 after six years as vice president, when Anwar Sadat was assassinated in Cairo by Islamist militants. He was forced to stand down in February 2011 after 18 days of protests during the so-called “Arab Spring.”

The former president died in the intensive care unit of a Cairo military hospital, where he underwent surgery a few weeks ago.

Mubarak was admired and detested in equal measure, both in Egypt and in the wider Middle East, a paradox reflected in reactions to his death.

The office of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi offered condolences and described Mubarak as one of the “heroes of the October 1973 war against Israel.”

In Saudi Arabia, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent their “deepest condolences and sincere sympathies” to Mubarak’s family, and the Egyptian president and people.


Gallery: Mubarak’s 30 years in power saw him meet many world leaders


Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, described Mubarak as “an Arab leader who worked loyally for Arab unity and stability and stood firmly against extremism and terrorism.” 

Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said he was “a statesman ... who espoused nationalistic and historical positions.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he mourned Mubarak’s death “with great sorrow” and praised his support of the Palestinian cause. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of his “deepest sorrow” on behalf of Israel and its people. “President Mubarak, a personal friend of mine, led his nation to peace and security,” he said.

The former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El-Baradei, a key opposition figure in Mubarak’s declining years, also paid tribute. “May God have mercy on the former president ... and grant his family patience and comfort,” he said.


Abdellatif El-Menawy — Hosni Mubarak: Egypt's warrior leader left his mark on Middle East history 


Protesters who took part in the revolution that unseated Mubarak were also forgiving. “He was loyal and loving of Egypt,” said opposition activist Wael Ghoneim. “He took on a great responsibility toward the Egyptian people.

“He was right a lot of the time and also wrong a lot of the time ... history will decide.”

Former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, who ran against Mubarak in the 2005 elections and was later jailed, was also conciliatory. “I promise to God I personally forgive him,” he said.

Ordinary Egyptians, many of whom admired Mubarak but complained of corruption, oppression and unemployment under his rule, had mixed feelings about his death.

“We had good and bad memories,” said Sherin Saad, a woman in her 30s, who criticized graft and the privatization of public companies, which Mubarak’s critics say enriched the elite.

Atef Bayoumi, walking on the Nile Corniche in central Cairo, said: “He was a patriot. Regardless of the final events, he surely did good things for the country.”

However, Gamal Eid, a prominent human rights activist, said: “My condolences to all tyrants, they lost one today.”

Such views, however, will be in a minority for the rest of this week. Mubarak’s funeral will take place on Wednesday, with full military honors, followed by three days of official mourning throughout Egypt.


Initial investigations point to negligence as cause of Beirut blast

Updated 30 min 40 sec ago

Initial investigations point to negligence as cause of Beirut blast

  • 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures
  • A source said a fire had started at warehouse 9 of the port and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored

BEIRUT: Initial investigations indicate years of inaction and negligence over the storage of highly explosive material in Beirut port caused the blast that killed over 100 people on Tuesday, an official source familiar with the findings said.
The prime minister and presidency said on Tuesday that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures.
"It is negligence," the official source told Reuters, adding that the storage safety issue had been before several committees and judges and "nothing was done" to issue an order to remove or dispose of the highly combustible material.
The source said a fire had started at warehouse 9 of the port and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored.
Tuesday's explosion was the most powerful ever suffered by Beirut, a city is still scarred by civil war three decades ago and reeling from a deep financial crisis rooted in decades of corruption and economic mismanagement.
Badri Daher, Director General of Lebanese Customs, told broadcaster LBCI on Wednesday that customs had sent six documents to the judiciary warning that the material posed a danger.
"We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why," Daher said.
Another source close to a port employee said a team that inspected the ammonium nitrate six months ago warned that if it was not moved it would "blow up all of Beirut".
According to two documents seen by Reuters, Lebanese Customs had asked the judiciary in 2016 and 2017 to ask the "concerned maritime agency" to re-export or approve the sale of the ammonium nitrate, removed from the a cargo vessel, Rhosus, and deposited in warehouse 12, to ensure port safety.
One of the documents cited similar requests in 2014 and 2015.
"A local and international investigation needs to be conducted into the incident, given the scale and the circumstances under which these goods were brought into the ports," said Ghassan Hasbani, former deputy prime minister and a member of the Lebanese Forces party.
Shiparrested.com, an industry network dealing with legal cases, had said in a 2015 report that the Rhosus, sailing under a Moldovan flag, docked in Beirut in September 2013 when it had technical problems while sailing from Georgia to Mozambique with 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
It said that, upon inspection, the vessel was forbidden from sailing and shortly afterwards it was abandoned by its owners, leading to various creditors coming forward with legal claims.
"Owing to the risks associated with retaining the ammonium nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port's warehouses," it added.