Monday 22 January 2018

Egypt's deputy backed by Israel, WikiLeaks reveals

An Egyptian soldier in his tank at Tahrir Square in Cairo yesterday, as protesters began digging in for a long fight in their demand for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak
An Egyptian soldier in his tank at Tahrir Square in Cairo yesterday, as protesters began digging in for a long fight in their demand for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak

Adrian Blomfield in Cairo

The new vice president of Egypt is a long-standing favourite of Israel's who spoke daily to the Tel Aviv government via a secret "hotline" to Cairo, leaked documents disclose.

Mr Suleiman, who is widely tipped to take over from Hosni Mubarak as president, was named as Israel's preferred candidate for the job after discussions with American officials in 2008.

As a key figure working for Middle East peace, he once suggested Israeli troops would be "welcome" to invade Egypt to stop weapons being smuggled to Hamas terrorists in neighbouring Gaza. The details, which emerged in secret files obtained by WikiLeaks, come after Mr Suleiman began talks with opposition groups on the future for Egypt's government.

On Saturday, Mr Suleiman won the backing of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to lead the "transition" to democracy.

British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to Mr Suleiman yesterday and urged him to take "bold and credible steps" to show the world that Egypt is embarking on an "irreversible, urgent and real" transition.

Leaked cables from American embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv disclose the close co-operation between Mr Suleiman and the US and Israeli governments as well as diplomats' intense interest in likely successors to the ageing President Mubarak (83).

By 2008, Mr Suleiman, who was head of the foreign intelligence service, had become Israel's main point of contact in the Egyptian government.

David Hacham, a senior adviser from the Israeli Ministry of Defence, told the American embassy in Tel Aviv that a delegation had been impressed by Mr Suleiman. But Mr Hacham was "shocked" by President Mubarak's "aged appearance and slurred speech".

Smuggling

Elsewhere the documents disclose that Mr Suleiman was stung by Israeli criticism of Egypt's inability to stop arms smugglers transporting weapons to Palestinian militants in Gaza.

At one point he suggested that Israel send troops into the Egyptian border region of Philadelphi to "stop the smuggling". "In their moments of greatest frustration, (Egyptian Defence Minister) Tantawi and Suleiman each have claimed that the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) would be 'welcome' to re-invade Philadelphi, if the IDF thought that would stop the smuggling," the cable said.

The files suggest Mr Suleiman wanted Hamas "isolated", and thought Gaza should "go hungry but not starve".

"We have a short time to reach peace," he told US diplomats.

"We need to wake up in the morning with no news of terrorism, no explosions, and no news of more deaths." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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