Home | News    Saturday 6 March 2004

Egypt insists on keeping its share of Nile water

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CAIRO, March 6 (AFP) — Egypt will reject any proposal to lower its quota of the Nile water, Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mahmud Abdel Halim Abu Zeid said Saturday, ahead of delicate talks with other countries sharing the African river basin.

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Lower Nile River valley

"The talks will have to comply with one permanent feature: not to touch Egypt’s historical rights," the minister told a news conference.

Abu Zeid will represent Egypt in a new round of discussions to open Sunday in Uganda with the nine other countries party to the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).

He said the talks should focus on "the means to benefit from the Nile water which are lost," and not on a review of Egypt’s share.

Of the Nile’s estimated annual allotment of 83 billion cubic metres (2,931 billion cubic feet), Egypt has been receiving 55 billion cubic meters (1,942 billion cubic feet) under a 1929 treaty it signed with Britain, which was representing its East African colonies.

The treaty also grants Cairo the right to veto any large-scale exploitation of the water by the other states that could affect the water level of the river.

Kenya and Tanzania have openly declared they would not recognise the treaty, since they were not party to it, with the latter announcing a major project that will draw water from Lake Victoria in violation of the treaty.

Ethiopia has expressed reservations about the treaty, without rejecting it.

The NBI was launched in 1999 to provide a framework to fight poverty and promote socio-economic development in the entire region.

Its members are Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

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