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Middle East
Spy chief made Mubarak deputy
Omar Suleiman is made vice-president of Egypt, but his appointment fails to quell public anger in the country.
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2011 08:10 GMT

Omar Suleiman, Egypt's intelligence chief, has been appointed as president Hosni Mubarak's first-ever vice-president.

The move came after days of violent protests in which tens of thousands had called for the president's resignation.

But the appointment did little to quell the unrest. The man now second-in-command has been working closely with Mubarak during most of the president's three decades in power.

As the director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services (EGIS) since 1993, Suleiman has been in charge of some of Egypt's most sensitive foreign policy issues, including the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

The 75-year-old has orchestrated a series of albeit short-lived truces between Israel and the Palestinians over the past 10 years and has won the trust of both the US and Israel.

But while he may be liked and trusted abroad, many in Egypt consider Suleiman part of Mubarak's inner circle, and as such a pillar of a corrupt regime.

Military training

Born to a well-off family in 1936 in the southern Egyptian town of Qena, Suleiman enrolled in Egypt's premier Military Academy at the age of 18. He later received additional military training in the then Soviet Union.

He also studied political science at two leading Egyptian universities.

He took part in the 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel. He also participated in the North Yemen Civil War in 1962, in which the republicans were supported by Egypt and the Soviet Union in their fight against royalists.

In 1995, Suleiman's advice to Mubarak to ride in an armoured car during a visit to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, is believed to have saved the president's life. The two men survived a failed ambush but the car's driver was killed.

During the 1990s, Suleiman began to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood, the officially banned but tolerated opposition party in Egypt.

He also co-operated with foreign intelligence agencies on cracking down on violent groups, at home and abroad. Among his main targets were homegrown groups such as the Gamaa Islamiya and Jihad after they carried out a string of attacks on foreigners that hit Egypt's vital tourism industry hard.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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