(Reuters) – Egypt does not want war with Ethiopia but will keep “all options open”, President Mohamed Mursi said on Monday, turning up the heat in a dispute over a giant dam Addis Ababa is building across the Nile.
In a televised speech to cheering Islamist supporters, Mursi voiced understanding for the development needs of poorer nations upstream in the Nile basin, but rammed home in emotive language that Egyptians will not accept any reduction in the flow of the river on which their civilization has been based for millennia.
Bellicose rhetoric, including talk of military action by Egyptian politicians last week, had raised concerns of a “water war” between Africa’s second and third most populous states.
But Mursi, for whom the dispute provides an opportunity to rally Egyptians behind him after a divisive first year in power, also appeared to leave room for compromise.
He did not renew an Egyptian call – flatly rejected by Ethiopia last week – for work to stop at the dam but said further study on its impact was needed.
Describing Ethiopia as a “friendly state”, he said Cairo was pursuing all political and diplomatic avenues for a solution.
Egypt’s foreign minister is to visit Addis Ababa to discuss the project for Africa’s biggest hydro power plant. Announced two years ago, engineers made a notable advance late last month.
“Egypt’s water security cannot be violated in any way,” Mursi said. “As head of state, I confirm to you that all options are open.” He later added: “We are not calling for war, but we will never permit our water security … to be threatened.”
Drawing on an old Egyptian song about the Nile, he said: “If it diminishes by one drop then our blood is the alternative.”
Cairo had no objection to “development projects in the Nile Basin states”, he added, “but on condition that those projects do not affect or damage Egypt’s legal and historical rights”…. Read More on Reuters
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