Daily Telegraph: US Covertly Backed Egypt's Opposition

World | January 29, 2011, Saturday // 10:18|  views

Egyptian protesters stand on top of an armoured vehicle after demonstrations which erupted following Friday prayers, in central Cairo. Photo by EPA/BGNES

The American government secretly backed leading figures behind the Egyptian uprising who have been planning "regime change" for the past three years, The Daily Telegraph writes in its Saturday edition.

According to the paper, the American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.

On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011.

He has already been arrested by Egyptian security in connection with the demonstrations and his identity is being protected by The Daily Telegraph.

The US government has been officially a supporter of Mubarak's regime. But documents leaked by the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks show America was offering strong backing to pro-democracy activists in Egypt.

In a secret diplomatic cable, sent on December 30 2008, Margaret Scobey, the US Ambassador to Cairo, recorded that opposition groups had allegedly drawn up secret plans for "regime change" to take place before elections, scheduled for September this year.

The memo, which Ambassador Scobey sent to the US Secretary of State in Washington DC, was marked "confidential" and headed: "April 6 activist on his US visit and regime change in Egypt," the Daily Telegraph informs.

The cable reported the activist claimed "several opposition forces" had "agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to a parliamentary democracy, involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled 2011 presidential elections". The embassy's source said the plan was "so sensitive it cannot be written down".

Ambassador Scobey questioned whether such an "unrealistic" plot could work, or ever even existed. However, the documents showed that the activist had been approached by US diplomats and received extensive support for his pro-democracy campaign from officials in Washington. The embassy helped the campaigner attend a "summit" for youth activists in New York, which was organized by the US State Department.

Cairo embassy officials warned Washington that the activist's identity must be kept secret because he could face "retribution" when he returned to Egypt. He had already allegedly been tortured for three days by Egyptian state security after he was arrested for taking part in a protest some years earlier, the Daily Telegraph further informs.

The current protests in Egypt are staged by the April 6 youth movement, a group on Facebook that has attracted mainly young and educated members opposed to Mubarak. The group has about 70 000 members.

The documents released by WikiLeaks reveal US Embassy officials were in regular contact with the activist throughout 2008 and 2009, considering him one of their most reliable sources for information about human rights violations.

Late Friday evening, Mubarak dismissed his government and said a new cabinet would be announced Saturday. It was his first statement since the protests began.

Tens of thousands took part in protests in Cairo, Suez, Alexandria and other cities.

Protesters set fire to the headquarters of the governing NDP party and besieged state TV and the foreign ministry.

At least 13 people were killed in Suez on Friday, while in Cairo, five people died, according to medical sources.

That brings the death toll to at least 26 since the protests began on Tuesday.

Mubarak has defended the role of Egypt's security forces.

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Tags: Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, Barack Obama, street protests, protest rallies, civil unrest, Cairo, protests, Mubarak, Daily Telegraph, Wikileaks, April 6 youth movement, Margaret Scobey, US Ambassador to Cairo, activist, State Department


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