CAIRO, AUG. 10 -- Egypt has canceled media coverage of upcoming Egyptian-American military maneuvers, opting instead to give the exercises minimum visibility in light of recent riots in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca and Iranian threats against the United States and its "lackeys."
The five-day Bright Star exercises, biannual events that include joint land, sea and air maneuvers, are scheduled to begin Saturday. About 9,000 American troops and an equal number of Egyptian soldiers are expected to participate. U.S. troops and equipment already have arrived in Egypt.
Observers said the decision by the government of President Hosni Mubarak to cancel media coverage, which was shaping up to be the most extensive to date, is an attempt by Egypt to avoid provoking Iran.
Since the clashes between Iranian pilgrims and Saudi police in the holy city of Mecca almost two weeks ago, in which at least 275 Iranians died, tension in the Arab world has soared. Iran accused the United States of being behind the violence and threatened to retaliate against America and its "lackeys."
Sources here said Tehran might view highly publicized American maneuvers in Egypt as a new provocation and part of a conspiracy against Iran.
Egyptian officials and American diplomats confirmed that media access had been canceled. Col. Nagy Tohami, spokesman for the Egyptian Defense Ministry, cited "security" as the reason.