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Middle East
Suleiman 'panned' Egypt opposition
Leaked US cables raise questions over whether vice-president can be honest broker in any talks with Muslim Brotherhood.
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2011 01:05 GMT
Protests against Mubarak's rule prompted the leader to appoint Suleiman as vice-president [Reuters]

Omar Suleiman, Egypt's recently appointed vice-president, has previously harshly criticised Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood in his communications with US officials, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

The revelations came as Suleiman met opposition leaders, including the Muslim Brotherhood, on Sunday in an bid to end a political crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in opposition to Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president.

But the leaked cables raise questions over whether the former intelligence chief can be seen as an honest broker in any negotiations.

In the cables, obtained by the Reuters news agency through the whistle-blowing organisation WikiLeaks, Suleiman is reported to have told US officials that the Muslim Brotherhood was creating armed groups.

He is also said to take "an especially hard line on Tehran", and in one dated January 2 2008, Suleiman is quoted as saying that Iran remained "a significant threat to Egypt".

In a cable dated February 15, 2006, Francis Ricciardone, then the US ambassador to Egypt, reported that Suleiman had "asserted that the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] had spawned '11 different Islamist extremist organisations', most notably the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Gama'a Islamiya [Islamic Group]".

'Technically illegal'

The cable, which uses the spelling "Soliman", goes on to say: "The principal danger, in Soliman's view, was the group's exploitation of religion to influence and mobilise the public."

It continues: "Soliman termed the MB's recent success in the parliamentary elections as 'unfortunate', adding his view that although the group was technically illegal, existing Egyptian laws were insufficient to keep the MB in check."

The elections referred to were those in November and December in 2005, in which the Brotherhood made substantial gains.

Egypt's president Mubarak has long attempted to paint his rule of Egypt as a counterbalance to an "Islamist threat".

Reuters said the cables implied that US officials were sceptical of Suleiman's portrayal of the Muslim Brotherhood, but officials have not commented on the issue.

The news agency reported PJ Crowley, the US state department spokesman, as saying: "We decline to comment on any individual classified cable."

The inclusion of the Brotherhood in the opposition's talks with Suleiman on Sunday are considered significant as the group is formally banned in Egypt, although its activities are tolerated.

As Sunday drew to a close, opponents of Mubarak dismissed the talks as insufficient and renewed their demands that the president step down.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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