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Egypt Rejects US Plane Crash Report

March 25, 2002

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CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Egypt on Sunday rejected a U.S. report blaming an Egyptian co-pilot for the 1999 crash of an EgyptAir Boeing 767 over the Atlantic, saying it will press on with its own investigation.

Mohsen El-Messiri, chief Egyptian investigator, said the U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board in its findings on Thursday adopted ``this wrong idea from the very beginning and they were stubborn about it.″

The report said that co-pilot Gameel El-Batouty was alone in the cockpit when he disconnected the autopilot, reduced power to the engines, and sent the plane downward. The board’s report offered no reason for these actions.

EgyptAir has previously blamed the crash on a fault with the plane’s tail.

The Boeing 767 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off the Massachusetts island of Nantucket on Oct. 31, 1999, killing all 217 people aboard. There has been speculation that El-Batouty committed suicide.

El-Messiri expressed satisfaction that the report dropped the theory about El-Batouty’s suicide, saying, ``Had I found out that el-Batouty had committed suicide I would have come back (from the United States) and said so.″

Shaker Qilada, vice president of the Safe and Quality Insurance, affiliated with EgyptAir, said the airline ``doesn’t recognize this report or its findings″ and has issued its own 225-page report on the crash.

Qilada refused to say what was in the report, only that it will be made public soon.

``The NTSB report is final for the Americans but not for us,″ he said. ``We will continue with our investigations to know the reason for the crash and to prevent its recurrence.″

At a news conference, El-Messiri, the EgyptAir investigator, sought to quell rumors in the Egyptian press that the plane was brought down by a U.S. missile.

``For the sake of truth and honesty, when we recovered the plane’s debris, we found no traces of anything that exploded from the outside or the inside,″ he said.

In a statement last week, the families of the American victims expressed regret that ``Egypt continues to resist the evidence that el-Batouty intentionally destroyed the aircraft″ and that the Egyptian government has frustrated the investigation into his family.

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