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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Falls Ill

Aired November 19, 2003 - 06:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to head to Egypt now. There is breaking news out of there.
Cairo bureau chief Ben Wedeman on the phone with an update on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was giving a speech and suddenly had to stop.

Ben -- could you find out any more?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Carol. Apparently, he had begun coughing and his speech was stammering when the broadcast was cut.

Now, since then, we've heard from the Egyptian information minister, who said that the president has experienced "mild health problems," in his words, brought on by the fact that he has a cold, that he's been taking antibiotics, and that he is fasting because it is, of course, currently the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. All three of these factors bringing on a health crisis, which has made it not possible for the president to continue his speech before parliament.

Now, it's been about 45 minutes since that speech was interrupted, and now we are watching as the members of the People's Assembly, where he was giving this speech, are waiting fairly anxiously for him to resume this speech.

We've heard from the minister of information that the president will be resuming that speech soon, but that was about, at this point, 50 minutes ago. So, the fact that it's taking so long for him to come back to resume his address is beginning to cause some concern among people here in Cairo -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And, of course, concern for the United States, too, because the Egyptian president is a friend of America.

WEDEMAN: Yes, President Mubarak has maintained friendly relations with the United States since he came to power in 1981, following the assassination of Anwar Sadat. Since then, he has been really a pillar of friendship to the United States. They've had their differences, of course. Most recently being the war in Iraq. Egypt did not support the American effort there to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

But certainly over the years he has been an ally of the United States, a very important one in the Middle East -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Ben Wedeman, many thanks -- live from Cairo on the phone this morning. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com.




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