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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Former Egyptian PM Ahmed Shafiq leaves UAE for Cairo

Departure comes days after he said he was being prevented from leaving the country, a claim UAE officials denied

Ahmed Shafiq speaks during a news conference in Cairo on June 21, 2012. Khaled Elfiqi / EPA
Ahmed Shafiq speaks during a news conference in Cairo on June 21, 2012. Khaled Elfiqi / EPA

Egypt’s former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, who plans to run in next year’s presidential elections, left the UAE to Egypt, just days after he claimed he was barred from leaving the country.

Mr Shafiq, who had been living in exile in the UAE since 2012, landed in Cairo airport on Saturday evening and headed to an unknown destination, AFP reported.

The UAE state news agency, Wam, confirmed that the former Egyptian premier had left the country, adding that his family remains in the UAE.

The UAE denied that it barred Mr Shafiq from leaving the country after he announced that he would run for president in his home country in 2018.

Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on Wednesday night that the “UAE affirms there is no obstacle” to Mr Shafiq’s departure from the country.

“The UAE regrets Ahmed Shafiq’s denial, for he took refuge in the UAE escaping Egypt after the announcement of the results of the [Egyptian] presidential election in 2012,” he said on Twitter. “We facilitated [his move] and offered him kind hospitality despite our deep reservations about some of his positions.

“The UAE has always respected the values of hospitality and care for the love of Egypt and the Egyptians, who are in our hearts and have [shown] us appreciation and respect.”

Mr Shafiq was placed on trial in absentia on corruption charges after narrowly losing the 2012 election to former president Mohammed Mursi, of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The former prime minister was acquitted, and his lawyer had said he would be free to return, but it is thought that he fears another case might be brought against him.

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Mr Sisi, a former army chief elected as president in 2014 less than a year after overthrowing Mr Mursi, lauded his experience in the military and as an aviation minister under former president Hosni Mubarak.

Mr Shafiq could represent one of the few candidates who can come close to challenging the current Egyptian president.

Another tentative candidate, leftist Khaled Ali, is facing legal troubles that may prevent him from registering, while a hitherto unknown army colonel has also announced his candidacy.

Mr Sisi, a former army chief who toppled Mr Mursi in 2013 following mass protests against the Muslim Brotherhood – to which Mr Mursi belonged – won an election in 2014.

He is certain to run in next year's election, although he has not formally announced his candidacy yet.

Under Mr Sisi, Egypt has undertaken tough economic reforms that saw the Egyptian pound lose more than half its value while inflation soared and state subsidies were cut.

However, he is considered by many Egyptians to be the strong leader the country needs after years of political turmoil. Egypt is also battling a deadly insurgency by a local ISIL affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula, where gunmen massacred more than 300 worshippers at a mosque last month.