Profile: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

09:16, February 11, 2011      

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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in a televised speech on Thursday night that he will hand over power to Vice President Omar Suleiman, but will not resign, in response to more than two weeks of mass protests against his 30- year rule.

Following are some basic facts about Mubarak:

Mubarak was born on May 4, 1928, into a lower middle class family in the village of Kafr el-Moseilha in the Nile delta province of Menoufia.

After joining the air force in 1950, Mubarak moved up the ranks as a bomber pilot and instructor and then in leadership positions after earning nationwide fame as commander of the air force during the 1973 Middle East war.

Mubarak became the country's president seven days after his predecessor Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Muslim extremists at a military parade on Oct. 6, 1981, for signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Mubarak, sitting next to Sadat, escaped with only a minor hand injury.

His foreign policy has generally been characterized as peaceful and he remained a strong ally of the United States, carving out a niche as a major mediator in the Arab-Israeli peace process.

Mubarak also engineered Egypt's return to the Arab fold in the 1980s after nearly a decade of isolation over the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, by building a relationship with Iraq's influential president at the time of Saddam Hussein.

Under Mubarak, Egypt backed Saddam in Iraq's war with Iran, but in 1990, he sided with the U.S.-led coalition to oppose Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Also under him, the Sinai peninsular resort of Sharm El Sheikh has become a common venue for international peace negotiations.

In 1999, Mubarak agreed to pump natural gas to Israel and the Palestinian territories in what was described by then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak as a "pipeline of peace."

During the early years of his reign, Mubarak won approval by keeping Egypt free of the grip of Islamic extremism by strongly putting down the Muslim militant insurgency. Later in the 1990s, Mubarak fought back hard against another resurgence of Muslim militants who attacked both foreign tourists and ordinary Egyptians.

However, his conduct of fighting Islamic militancy at the expense of personal freedoms and his tight governing style, along with the economic stagnation and widespread corruption under his rule, has dented his popularity.

He has maintained the emergency law, which was imposed after Sadat's assassination, allowing the arrest of civilians without warrants. The law was extended for another two years in 2010.

Mubarak had never appointed a vice president as the constitution required, though he did so last week in an effort to appease protesters demanding his ouster.

He only allowed multi-party elections for the first time in 2005, in which his National Democratic Party won comfortably over the second-placed Muslim Brotherhood, a party that had to run candidates as independents because it was banned.

And due to his policy of peace with Israel, his efforts to tame the Islamic extremist and his grip on power, which made him and his government the frequent targets of domestic opposition, Mubarak has survived 10 attempts on his life during his 30 years in reign.

In 1995, he escaped an assassination attempt at an African unity summit in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

Mubarak's health is rumored to be failing in recent years. And his relatively liberal economic policies have only trickled down to a handful of people, particularly those in the real estate sector. Millions of people remain unemployed and poverty is still a reality of daily life for many Egyptians.

On top of these, the quick rise through the ruling party of his young son Jamal, widely speculated to be groomed to be his successor, has caused great domestic anxiety in recent years.

Mubarak's fifth six-year-term as president is due to end this year, but he had refused to say whether he would contest September 's vote till Feb. 1, after eight days of mass protests calling for his immediate departure.

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