In a bid to compete with Moroccofor foreign productions coming to North Africa and the Middle East, Egyptian filmindustry officials are expected to recommend a single government entity to handlelocation shoot permissions, replacing the Byzantine system of multipleauthorities that exists now.

Film industry veterans led by producer Khaled Alkhamissi are drafting aletter to the Egyptian Ministry of Culture recommending the governmentstreamline its procedures for dealing with foreign producers, following asymposium on foreign film shoots in Egyptheld during last week's Cairo International Film Festival.

Alkhamissi said foreign producers face obstacles such as censorship, a heavyburden of paperwork, complicated approvals procedures and customs tariffs thatare imposed on filmmaking equipment brought in from outside the country.

Despite coveted Pharaonicscenery such as the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Valley of the Kings, Egypt isleagues behind Morocco when it comes in luring international productions.

Whereas Moroccobrings in about 80 features a year, with producers spending an estimated $205million over the last four years, "we haven't even realized 5% of that figure,"Alkhamissi said.

Mohamed Lotfi,vice director of the Moroccan Cinema Centert, wasexpected to attend the symposium, but instead sent a message with a list ofrecommendations that included a fast-track authority for permissions and zerocustoms duties on incoming equipment.

Proponents of these measures face an uphillbattle, if the reactions of many of the panelists that took part in last week'ssymposium are any indication.

Mamdouh El Leithy, head of the syndicate ofEgyptian filmmakers, railed against foreign "crooks" seeking Egyptianco-productions so they can stay at five-star hotels.

Arguments also broke out about where withinEgypt's massive government the agency dealing with foreign producers wouldbe located. Most participants recommended the Ministry of Culture, even whileacknowledging the ministry - which was not represented at the symposium - hasdistanced itself from managing incoming productions, saying they are not its responsibility.