Reporters on the Job

What Iraq Conference? Staff writer Howard LaFranchi assumed that the stepped-up security around the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik had something to do with the fact that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a phalanx of Arab and other foreign ministers are in town for a two-day conference on Iraq (see story).

But Howard quickly learned there's something more important going on at the resort. "It really has to do with THE wedding. Everyone is talking about Friday's wedding of Gamal Mubarak, the son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, to Khadiga el-Gamal, 24-year-old graduate of American University in Cairo," he says.

Egyptians have taken to calling the Mubarak nuptials the "royal wedding" – some approvingly, some not. Those who disapprove tend to suspect the Mubaraks are setting up Gamal to inherit his father's post. As Egyptian poet and political gadfly Ahmed Fouad is reported to have penned, "Congratulations to the groom – you who are getting us as your inheritance."

But Howard says he was put in his place by one Egyptian official, when he apparently asked one too many questions about the wedding-succession nexus. "It's just a wedding," Howard was told. "And besides, don't you Americans have the Bushes and the Clintons?"

David Clark Scott
World editor

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