Nile basin treaty faces new pressure

2010-06-25 08:00

Cairo - Omar Suleiman, Egypt's intelligence chief, is in talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala over differences concerning the recent Nile basin agreement, Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm reported on Thursday.

Suleiman's visit is part of Egypt's diplomatic efforts against the treaty signed by Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Tanzania last month. The treaty increased the share of Nile water of these countries for irrigation and hydropower projects.

Egypt and Sudan strongly oppose the agreement, fearing that their historic majority share of the water supply would be severely reduced.

Egypt wants all the Nile basin countries to return to the negotiating table.

Egyptian Finance Minister Youssef Botrous Ghali travelled to Burundi earlier this week for talks regarding the treaty, al-Masry al-Youm reported. Burundi, along with Congo, abstained from signing the agreement.

In addition, diplomatic sources revealed that a high-level Egyptian delegation arrived in Sudan on Wednesday night for talks on the Nile basin issue.

Egypt, which depends mainly on the Nile for its water consumption, has vowed to take legal action to maintain its current water rights that it has described as a "red line" not to be crossed.

The Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC), a government think tank, warned last year that the country's water needs would surpass its resources by the year 2017.

Egypt is allocated 55.5 billion cubic metres of water from the Nile each year, under a 1959 agreement with Sudan that was based on 1929 promises from Britain that it will not undertake projects in its east African colonies that would interfere with Egypt's water supply.