CBSN

Mubarak Stricken During TV Speech

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 7-25-02
AP (file)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak interrupted a speech to parliament Wednesday for more than 30 minutes because of what was described as a "health crisis" before resuming the address amid cheers from lawmakers.

Upon his return, he spoke for less than five minutes and then adjourned the parliament session without referring to the interruption. Mubarak, who was said to be suffering a cold, was later driven away in a limousine.

Before the interruption, the 75-year-old Mubarak's voice had begun to weaken and his speech sounded slightly slurred. His voice was stronger when he returned, and he responded to shouts of support from members of parliament with smiles and thanks before returning to his speech on domestic and foreign policy, which appeared to have been cut short.

A television announcer said, "The president has suffered a health crisis" after the state television broadcast was briefly cut. When the broadcast resumed, it showed members of parliament milling in the hall and Mubarak no longer at the podium.

The parliament speaker, Fathi Sorour, took the podium to announce: "Mr. President is fine and he will get back in minutes."

A Muslim and a Coptic cleric rose to lead prayers for the president's health, to which members responded with "amen."

Traffic in downtown Cairo was stopped and a helicopter was seen approaching the parliament building. Traffic was allowed to flow again after Mubarak left parliament.

Minister of Information Safwat el-Sherif, interviewed by state television outside parliament during the interruption, said Mubarak was taking a short rest and would resume his speech soon. El-Sherif said Mubarak had been observing the Muslim fast for the holy month of Ramadan, which ends this weekend, despite a cold for which he was taking antibiotics.

The parliament opening had been postponed from Saturday because of Mubarak's cold.

Mubarak has led Egypt since Anwar Sadat was assassinated by a Muslim extremist on Oct. 6, 1981. Mubarak was Sadat's vice president.

Recent months have seen speculation Mubarak was grooming his son Gamal to succeed him.

Egypt is a key U.S. ally seen as a moderate mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict.