Suez Canal - just how important a gauge for Egypt's economy?

Suez Canal - just how important a gauge for Egypt's economy?Cairo - Since the beginning of 2009, the blare of ships' horns passing through the Suez Canal has become less frequent, so it came as no surprise when latest figures showed a drop in canal revenues.

The canal, completed by French engineers in 1869, means ships avoid the lengthy trip around Africa to pass from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. And it provides Egypt with an important source of revenue.

Egyptian journalists fined for violating gag on murder trial

Egyptian journalists fined for violating gag on murder trial Cairo  - Human rights groups and an international media watchdog on Thursday condemned an Egyptian court verdict ordering five journalists to pay hefty fines for violating a ban on reporting about a high-profile murder trial.

The court ordered five Egyptian journalists to pay 10,000 Egyptian pounds (1,800 US dollars) each for reporting on the trial of an influential Egyptian business tycoon accused of ordering a hit on a Lebanese pop singer.

EU's Solana meets Egyptian officials ahead of Gaza donor meeting

Javier SolanaCairo - European foreign policy chief Javier Solana met Thursday Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit ahead of a major donor conference on the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip next week, Egyptian State news agency MENA reported.

Solana described the Gaza reconstruction meeting as "very important" from an economic and humanitarian perspective, saying that it would encourage donor countries to commit to the rebuilding of Gaza in the wake of the 22-day Israeli offensive which began on December 27.

Hamas, Fatah start reconciliation meeting in Cairo

Hamas, Fatah start reconciliation meeting in CairoCairo - Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah started national unity talks in Cairo on Thurday to over come a bitter split between rival governments in the West bank and Gaza.

The Cairo meeting, sponsored by Egyptian intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, urged Palestinian factions to overcome their disputes and focus on the best interests of the Palestinian people.

Hamas, Fatah hold "positive" talks in Cairo

Hamas, Fatah hold "positive" talks in CairoCairo  - Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah held talks in Cairo on Wednesday ahead of broader Palestinian national unity talks scheduled for Thursday.

Hamas politburo member Ezzat al-Rishq described the atmosphere in the talks as "positive and promising" in remarks aired by the Arabic satellite broadcaster al-Jazeera.

British foreign secretary, in Cairo, calls for Palestinian state

British Foreign Secretary David MilibandCairo  - British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, speaking in Cairo Wednesday, called the establishment of a "viable and strong" Palestinian state crucial to the security of Israel and the Middle East.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak, Miliband applauded Egypt's role in brokering ceasefire talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

He urged Palestinian factions to form a national unity government, and called for the creation of a Palestinian state along Israel's 1967 borders.