Mubarak refuses to eat, but critics say it is a ruse

The former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, has refused to eat for four days, has lost weight and is weak, his chief doctor has said, increasing speculation that the ousted leader won't stand trial next week as scheduled.

Any delay in Mr Mubarak's trial would be likely further to inflame tensions between the military council ruling Egypt since Mr Mubarak's fall and protesters frustrated with the pace of change. Many Egyptians already accuse the army of dragging its feet in prosecuting former regime figures and officials accused of killing protesters during the 18-day uprising that toppled Mr Mubarak on 11 February.

Clashes erupted last week in Cairo after thousands of protesters tried to march on the military's headquarters and were met by men with knives, sticks and clubs. Hundreds were injured before security forces dispersed the crowds with clouds of tear gas.

On Tuesday, Assam Azzam, the head of Mubarak's medical team, said the former leader was weak and had lost weight after refusing to eat for four days.

Doctors at the hospital in Sharm el Sheikh, where Mr Mubarak has been under house arrest since April, said the former president consumes liquids, but only when pressured by the medical team or his wife. "Mubarak gives in to pressure from the doctors more than he does to pressure from Suzanne Mubarak," Mr Azzam said.

The doctors could feed him intravenously if his condition deteriorates, Mr Azzam said. He added that the biggest threat to Mr Mubarak's health is depression. Rumours about Mr Mubarak's health have been rife. Critics suspect they are a ruse to prevent Mr Mubarak from standing trial.