ABDEL-HALIM ABU GHAZALA, 78
Egyptian defense minister
Abdel-Halim Abu Ghazala, Egypt's former defense minister and a veteran of Arab-Israeli wars who was once considered a possible successor to President Hosni Mubarak, died Saturday at a Cairo military hospital of complications related to throat cancer, Egypt's Middle East News Agency reported.
Mr. Abu Ghazala served as Egypt's military attache in Washington in the late 1970s, where he developed close ties with the U.S. military after Cairo signed a peace treaty with Israel.
Mr. Abu Ghazala became minister of defense in 1981, shortly before the killing of President Anwar Sadat during a military parade. Like Mr. Mubarak, Mr. Abu Ghazala was sitting next to Mr. Sadat when he was assassinated.
As defense minister, he worked with Mr. Mubarak to hold together the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which Mr. Sadat signed with former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the face of popular opposition.
For the next eight years, Mr. Abu Ghazala, who was close to the United States, was considered the most influential figure in Egypt after Mr. Mubarak because of the vast power the Egyptian military wielded in the country's political and economic life at the time.
In 1989, Mr. Mubarak moved Mr. Abu Ghazala from minister of defense to the ceremonial post of presidential assistant after news reports surfaced about Mr. Mubarak's alleged fears of Mr. Abu Ghazala's ambitions.
There were also allegations that Mr. Abu Ghazala was involved in an illegal plan to import missile parts from the United States.