Cairo: Top Egyptian politicians were left red- faced after they were caught on live TV hatching plots to sabotage a dam in neighbouring Ethiopia during talks with President Mohammed Mursi, leaving viewers stunned.
The gaffe happened as an official failed to inform them that they were live on air during talks with Mursi.
"It was initially planned that the national meeting would be recorded and aired the next day, as is usually the case, but due to the importance of the topic it was decided at the last minute to air the meeting live. I forgot to inform the attendees about the changes," presidential aide for political affairs Pakinam El-Sharqawy said via Facebook late yesterday.
El-Sharqawy later apologised for the gaffe but the damage had been done, Ahram Online reported.
Seated around a large table, the politicians thinking this was a closed meeting began to suggest ideas, including spreading of rumours and using underhand means, for ways to stop the dam project.
"We will work on absorbing the shock caused by the Millennium Dam", Mursi said during the meeting, aired by Egypt`s state TV, adding that the dam will affect only 8 per cent of the total of Egypt`s electricity generation.
Commenting on some experts` predictions that the dam might collapse and pose a danger to Egypt, the president said: "This, of course, will be in Egypt`s favour, but we cannot say that (officially)".
Several political figures expressed anger at the mistake because they expressed views they thought would remain secret.
Liberal Ghad Party leader Ayman Nour said he was shocked that the meeting had been screened live without informing the participants.
The most controversial comment was made by him as he suggested that Egypt disseminate rumours that it is seeking advanced aircrafts, the Egypt Independent reported.
He said this is an intelligence technique of intimidation.
"It might not be realistic, but it will bring results on the diplomatic path," Nour said.
It was a "big mistake" because sensitive information was being discussed, Nour said later.
Younis Makhyoun, chairman of the Salafi Nour Party, said the last chip Egypt has is using its secret services to demolish the dam, describing the project as a declaration of war.
Chairman of the moderate Islamist Wasat Party, Abul Ela Mady, suggested sending army destroyers to the Bab al-Mandab strait and spreading rumours that Egypt is about to strike the dam.
Former information minister Osama Heikal said broadcasting the meeting live was "a farce" that reflects "the state of absurdity Egypt is experiencing".