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Egypt's President Mubarak enters Algeria football row

Hosni Mubarak
President Mubarak said Egypt does not tolerate attacks on its dignity

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has stepped into a row with Algeria, vowing he will not tolerate the "humiliation" of Egyptian nationals abroad.

The dispute was triggered by violence following football World Cup qualifying matches between the two north African Arab nations.

Algeria won the crucial play-off, but each side has accused the other's fans of attacking their supporters.

The governing body of world football, Fifa, is investigating the violence.

The BBC's Yolande Knell in Cairo says in a country where political demonstrations are usually heavily suppressed this is an unusual sight and a further sign of how strained Egypt's relationship with Algeria has now become.

In the televised statement to a joint session of parliament, President Mubarak said his country will not be lax in defending the rights and integrity of its citizens.

"Egypt does not tolerate those who hurt the dignity of its sons," he said.

Although he did not mention Algeria by name, our correspondent says it was clear he was referring to the row that has occurred following violence that spilled over following the matches on 14 and 18 November.

Mr Mubarak said: "We don't want to be drawn into impulsive reactions. I am agitated too, but I restrain myself."

Protestors near the Algerian embassy in Cairo
Egyptians are furious at reports their fans were attacked

Algeria has demanded that Egypt stop what it describes as "a media campaign" against it following the violence.

On Friday, riot police had to quell a violent demonstration near the Algerian embassy in Cairo. Egypt's interior ministry said 35 people were injured.

A day earlier, around 1,000 Egyptians burned Algerian flags in a street near the Algerian embassy.

Algeria beat Egypt 1-0 in a play-off in Sudan on Wednesday.

Threat to quit

Protesters were incensed by reports that Egyptian fans at the match had been attacked as they left the stadium.

Egypt has threatened to quit international football for two years after complaining to Fifa about Algerian fans' behaviour in Khartoum.

If Egypt does not go through with its threat, there is a chance the teams could meet again in less than three months, in the Cup of African Nations, hosted by Angola.

The two teams were drawn in different groups at Friday's ceremony but could meet each other in the later stages.

Egypt's foreign ministry had summoned the Algerian ambassador to hear complaints about reports of attacks on Egyptian fans in Khartoum and on Egyptian businesses in Algeria.

The Egyptian ambassador in Algiers was than recalled "for consultations".

Sudan has also summoned the Egyptian envoy in Khartoum, angry at Egyptian media coverage of the game's aftermath.

The Egyptian government alleges 21 of its citizens were attacked after the match, but Sudan says far fewer were injured.

The teams needed the play-off in a neutral country to decide on qualification after the final group match between them on Saturday saw Egypt win 2-0, meaning the two teams finished tied at the top of the group with equal points and identical goal difference.

Fifa has opened disciplinary proceedings against Egypt after the Algerian team bus was pelted with stones before the 14 November match in Cairo.

Three Algerian players were injured by rocks thrown as they arrived.



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