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aa_picture_20140212_1564040_high-jpg20140212131944Addis Abab, Feb 12, 2014 – An Egyptian government minister who visited Addis Ababa earlier this week has urged Ethiopia to halt construction of a multibillion-dollar hydroelectric dam project on the Nile’s upper reaches – but the request was denied.

The request was tabled by Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Muttalib during his Monday visit to Ethiopia, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday by phone.

“Abdel-Mutallib wants construction of the dam halted until Egyptian demands are met,” Mufti said.

At a one-on-one meeting with Ethiopian Water Minister Alemayehu Tegenu, Mufti said, Abdel-Mutallib had demanded the inclusion of additional international representatives on the panel of experts drawn up to examine the dam’s potential environmental impact.

According to the ministry spokesman, it was the same demand that Egypt had raised – and which Ethiopia and Sudan rejected – during tripartite negotiations in Khartoum last December.

“It’s the same old thing they’ve been saying,” Mufti said.

The Ethiopian side, the spokesman added, had reiterated its position that there was no need to include more representatives on the panel, which currently contains two members each from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, along with four others representing the international community.

Dina downplayed recent Egyptian media reports that Israel and Turkey were both playing active roles in the Ethiopian dam project.

“[Such reports] have increased in both frequency and volume, especially after Turkish Foreign Minister [Ahmet Davutoglu], during his recent visit to Addis Ababa, offered to share Turkey’s experience regarding the [construction of the] Ataturk Dam with Ethiopia,” Mufti said.

Mufti went on to say that Egypt had been hinting at an Israeli role in the Ethiopian dam project in hopes of fanning Arab sentiments against it.

“The Ethiopian position has always been that it wants win-win cooperation in terms of utilization of Nile water among the riparian countries,” he said.

The project, Mufti asserted, had been conceived, designed and financed – and is now being implemented – entirely by Ethiopians.

Ethiopia is building the dam, dubbed the Grand Renaissance Dam, on the Blue Nile – Egypt’s primary source of water.

The project has raised alarm bells in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, regarding its historical share of Nile water.

Water distribution among Nile basin states has long rested on a colonial-era treaty giving Egypt and Sudan the lion’s share of river water.

Citing its need for development, Ethiopia says it must build a series of dams to generate electricity, both for local consumption and export.

By Rasaas