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WikiLeaks cables: Egyptian gov't stokes fears of Muslim Brotherhood

WASHINGTON - Daily News with wires | 2/8/2011 12:00:00 AM |

The Muslim Brotherhood has long argued that the Egyptian government exaggerates the outlawed group's positions and its likelihood of attaining power as a scare tactic.

The Muslim Brotherhood, a key part of the opposition in Egypt, has long argued that the Egyptian government exaggerates the outlawed group’s positions and its likelihood of attaining power in democratic elections as a scare tactic.

American diplomats, as it turns out, agree with these claims, according to a report by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica based on leaked diplomatic cables.

“The Egyptians have a long history of threatening us with the Muslim Brotherhood bogeyman,” then-Ambassador to Egypt Francis Ricciardone, who is now the new U.S. envoy in Ankara, wrote to FBI Director Robert Mueller in 2005.

“Your counterparts may try to suggest that the president’s insistence on greater democracy in Egypt is somehow responsible for the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral success,” Ricciardone added in the confidential U.S. diplomatic cable newly released by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. “You should push back that, on the contrary, the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise signals the need for greater democracy and transparency in government.”

Another cable from 2006 stated, “We do not accept the proposition that Egypt’s only choices are a slow-to-reform authoritarian regime or an Islamist extremist one; nor do we see greater democracy in Egypt as leading necessarily to a government under the Muslim Brotherhood.”

A third cable describes current Vice President Omar Suleiman, then Egypt’s intelligence chief, slamming the Muslim Brotherhood as a “dangerous” movement that has spawned “11 different Islamist extremist organizations.”

Suleiman held a meeting yesterday with opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Following the talks, a Muslim Brotherhood official reiterated to ABC News that the group is not seeking a religious revolution or the presidency, and supports maintaining Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, which he called “of value to the people of Egypt.”

The official, Dr. Khalil el-Gazar, also spoke of his astonishment at widespread Islamophobia in the Western world, ProPublica reported. “We have good feelings toward Western countries,” he said.

The website Slate also reported last week that the Muslim Brotherhood, which was technically banned by Mubarak’s government, would likely prioritize freedom to expand its social and educational activities.

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