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Last Updated: Friday, 10 September, 2004, 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK
Mubarak son raises public profile
By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC regional analyst

Billboard in Cairo
The billboards show Mubarak (right) flanked by Olympic heroes
Huge billboards carrying pictures of the Egyptian president's son, Gamal Mubarak, have appeared in central Cairo.

The 41-one-year old former investment banker has been playing an increasingly prominent role in the country's political life.

However both he and his father, Hosni Mubarak, have strenuously denied that he is being groomed as a future president.

The billboards show the young Mubarak flanked by the country's Olympic champions, who were given a hero's welcome after returning from Athens last month with five medals.

The billboards appear to be part of the strategy to promote Gamal Mubarak as a symbol of success and hope in a country struggling to cope with mounting economic and social problems.

Civilian rule?

Ever since he was given a key position in the ruling National Democratic Party a few years ago, the young Mubarak has been carefully cultivating his public image.

He has associated himself with sporting events and a rising young and dynamic business elite.

Billboards featuring Mubarak the father are quite common, but this is the first time his son has appeared on this scale.

This will most likely add to speculation that the ailing 76-year-old president plans to hand over to his son.

The two men have denied the existence of any such plans.

Despite widespread opposition to hereditary succession, some Egyptians are beginning to believe it could be the only way to give the country its first civilian president, ending more than 50 years of the army's monopoly over the country's top executive job.

All Egyptian presidents have been officers, ever since the military coup that overthrew the monarchy in 1952.

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