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CAIRO - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak appeared on Egyptian state television from his hospital room in Germany on Thursday and said he was helping out the government when the need arose and did not expect to be away long.

Sitting up in a striped dressing gown, Mubarak said he would continue with physiotherapy for his slipped disc and would not have an operation unless his doctors decided that was not working.

It was his first appearance since he arrived in the hospital in Munich on Sunday.

Looking relaxed and informal, Mubarak said: "I am still running things here to some extent, not all work. The government is working, and if there is any need I talk to them and so there's no problem from that point of view."

"It's as though I'm on a week's vacation. So I'm relaxing a little. In any case... as soon as I finish the treatment, straight away, whether by physiotherapy or anything else, God willing, I'll come back and carry on in Cairo," he added.

Mubarak flew to Germany on Sunday and expected to have an operation for a slipped disc on Monday morning. But doctors recommended that he continue with physiotherapy and said an operation might not be necessary.

"Of course we won't do this disc operation until we are sure that the physiotherapy won't produce results, and that will take time, not long," Mubarak said.

His failure to appear on television had led to rumors in Cairo about the gravity of his illness. The television reporter who interviewed the president said Egyptians wanted to be reassured that he was well.

"I thank our brother citizens and reassure citizens who are worried about my health," Mubarak replied.

In his absence the Egyptian government appears to be running smoothly. Mubarak's envoy, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, started work on Wednesday on a new initiative to mediate between Israelis and Palestinians.

The ruling National Democratic Party also took a major political decision by choosing veteran Information Minister Safwat el-Sherif on Wednesday as the new speaker of the upper house of parliament -- a move that will require him to give up the influential post he has held since 1982