An Egyptian newspaper doctored a White House pool photo taken during Mideast peace talks last week in order to move Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak ahead of the other world leaders at the talks.

In the original photo (left) ,  in which President Barack Obama is leading Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Mubarak to a media event, Mubarak was clearly trailing the others.  Egypt’s Al Ahrem, the state-run newspaper (doesn’t that phrase sound ominous?) instead ran a photo with Mubarak leading the charge into the room, either to flatter his importance or to make him look extra eager to get those peace talks started.

After the doctored photo appeared in the paper on September 14, a blogger in Egypt noted the change, and and independent media outlets in Egypt have criticized Al Ahrem. The independent daily Al-Masry al-Youm, said Al-Ahram had “carried out surgery” on the photo “to show Mubarak leading and the rest behind.” According to the Telegraph in Britain, Al Ahram has since replaced the image on its web site with a picture of the assembled leaders seated on chairs in the Red Sea resort.

As attempts to flatter a country’s leader goes, this seems less amusing than when Paris Match, an independent weekly in France, retouched a photo of a shirtless President Nicolas Sarkozy to remove his love handles in 2007.

This altered news photo of Mubarak has the look of one of those Soviet-era uses of airbrushing (described in The Commissar Vanishes)  to remove or replace leaders according to the political winds of the day.

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