Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, had some important information to share with a room full of politicians who, believing they were in a secret meeting, had just laid out all the covert ways that their country could stop a Nile River dam project in nearby Ethiopia: they were on live television.
Mr. Morsi convened a meeting of political leaders from both Islamist and secular parties on Monday to discuss the potential impact of a proposed Ethiopian dam on Egypt, which views access to the waters of the Nile as a vital national interest. Unaware that their words were being broadcast live on a state-owned television channel, many of those seated around the table said the dam was in fact a secret American and Israeli plot to undermine Egypt that must be stopped at all costs.
Excerpts from the meeting were posted to YouTube on Wednesday by the Middle East Media Research Institute, an organization that monitors the Arabic-language media and was founded by a former Israeli intelligence officer.
Mr. Morsi broke the news to the gathered politicians after Magdi Hussein, the leader of the Islamic Labor Party, proposed that the men gathered around the table vow not to leak any information from their meeting to the news media. All information must first go through Pakinam el-Sharkawy, he said, one of Mr. Morsi’s top aides.
I’m very fond of battles. With the enemies, of course, with America and Israel, but this battle must be waged with maximum judiciousness and calm. Even though this is a secret meeting we must all take an oath not to leak anything to the media unless it is done officially by Sister Pakinam. We need an official plan for popular national security, even if we did …
At that point, someone off camera then handed Mr. Hussein a note, which he studied for a moment before chuckling and quickly changing his tone.
“O.K. Fine. It’s good that you told me,” he said. “The principles behind what I’m saying are not really secret. Our battle is with America and Israel, not with Ethiopia. Therefore, engaging in battle, this is my opinion … ”
Mr. Morsi then interrupted him, “This meeting is being aired live on TV.”
The men seated around the long table burst into laughter, as Mr. Hussein, who less than a minute earlier had earnestly described the gathering as a “secret meeting,” began to backtrack with a hint of embarrassment in his voice.
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