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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 March, 2004, 21:25 GMT
Nile states hold 'crisis talks'
By Martin Plaut
BBC News

The 10 states that share the Nile waters are meeting in Uganda on Monday to discuss the future of the river.

The talks - held under the auspices of the Nile Basin Initiative - come amid growing regional tensions over the world's longest river.

Egypt is reported to have said it would regard any attempt to alter the Nile status as an act of war.

A 1929 treaty said no work would be done on the river that would reduce the volume of water reaching Egypt.

The Nile is vitally important to the survival of 160 million people who share the basin in which it flows, but to Egypt the river is a matter of life and death, as the country has almost no other source of water.

But the 1929 treaty - signed between Britain and Egypt - is now being questioned.

Tanzania is building a pipeline to extract drinking water.

Kenya is calling for a revision of the treaty, and Ethiopia is planning to use the water for irrigation.

'New arrangement'

The NBI's executive director, Maraji Msuya, says that despite differences, the meeting is an opportunity to thrash out a common approach to the sharing of its waters.

"All these countries, they have categorically said that they are ready to sit [at] the table," Mr Msuya said.

"And indeed right now all the... countries are on the table negotiating for a new arrangement, for an arrangement on how everybody, all the countries, could benefit from the Nile water resources."

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