CAIRO - Egypt's foreign minister, vowing not to give up "a single drop of water from the Nile", said on Sunday he would go to Addis Ababa to discuss a giant dam that Ethiopia has begun building in defiance of Cairo's objections.
Speaking to Egypt's state news agency MENA two days after the Ethiopian government flatly rejected a request from Cairo to halt the project, Mohamed Kamel Amr underlined that Egyptians view any obstacle to the river as a threat to national survival.
"No Nile - no Egypt," he said, highlighting the pressure on the Egyptian government, whose popularity is wilting in the face of economic troubles, to prevent the hydro power plant cutting already stretched water supplies for its 84 million people.
Last week, Ethiopia summoned the Egyptian ambassador after politicians in Cairo were shown on television suggesting military action or supporting Ethiopian rebels - a mark of the threat felt in Cairo from the plan to dam the Blue Nile, the tributary that supplies the bulk of water downstream in Egypt.
"Egypt won't give up on a single drop of water from the Nile or any part of what arrives into Egypt from this water in terms of quantity and quality," Amr told MENA, noting Egypt has little rainfall and is effectively desert without its great river.
Speaking at a news conference, he declined to detail the action Egypt might take next but noted Ethiopian assurances that Africa's biggest hydro station would not cut water supplies:
"We have a plan for action, which will start soon," Amr said. "We'll talk to Ethiopia and we'll see what comes of it.
"Ethiopia has said it will not harm Egypt, not even by a litre of water. We are looking at ... this being implemented."