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2006-03-02 09:58:00
Embassy Cairo
Cable title:  

Egyptian Media Coverage of Secretary Rices

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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 001309 


E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Egyptian Media Coverage of Secretary Rices
Regional Visit, February 21-24, 2006



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Egyptian Media Coverage of Secretary Rices
Regional Visit, February 21-24, 2006

1. Summary. Secretary Rices visit to Egypt and the
region garnered widespread media attention, from
straightforward news reporting to significant television
and print commentary. Between February 22 and 25, of the
pro-government, opposition and independent papers monitored
by Embassy Cairo, commentaries regarding the Secretarys
visit or U.S. policies rose to 30 percent, a significant
percentage given a national Avian Influenza scare which
erupted the day of her arrival. During February 22 and 23,
satellite and terrestrial television news and talk-shows
concentrated on her visit and U.S. policies, to include
frequent airing of her exclusive interview with Egyptian
Television, and all major newspapers covered her visit to
the region through February 25. End Summary.

2. Straight News Coverage. Secretary Rices trip received
significant straight news coverage from February 21-25. On
February 21, most papers headlined her scheduled talks with
Prime Minister Nazif, Foreign Minister Abul Gheit and
President Mubarak, with regional news agency, Al-Sharq Al-
Awsat (Middle East Newspaper) speculating that Secretary
Rice would ask Mubarak to increase the number of Egyptian
peacekeeping forces in Darfur. On February 22, Egyptian
television news programs led with Secretary Rices official
meetings and the press conference the previous night,
focusing on the announced resumption of strategic talks
between the two countries. Pan Arab networks (Al-Jazeera
and Al-Arabia) also highlighted her meetings, and reported
that while Secretary Rice called on any future Palestinian
cabinet to respect previous agreements, FM Abul Gheit said
Hamas deserves the chance to lead. On February 23, most
papers ran Secretary Rices arrival two days earlier, and
her official talks as the second main headline, after a
major national scare regarding Nile contamination. That
same day, TV news programs continued to lead with the
Secretarys meeting with Mubaraks the day before. The

meeting also continued to be run as major news stories
inside all papers, with articles quoting Mubarak, via his
Presidential Spokesman, asking for continuing support for
the Palestinian people and more time for Hamas to determine
its positions and form a cabinet. Opposition daily, Al-
Wafd, in particular, highlighted her meeting with members
of civil society, quoting Secretary Rice expressing
disappointment over Egypts political setbacks and
emphasizing adherence to reform.

3. Post-Egypt News Coverage. On February 24, newspapers
continued following the Secretarys regional tour, with
headlines announcing Secretary Rice faces firm Arab
es firm Arab
rejection of Hamas and Palestinian Authority isolation.
Papers reported that Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud
Al-Faisal, said his country would continue to give
financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, even with a
Hamas-controlled government. Pro-government daily, Al-
Ahram characterized the Secretary as calling for continued
reforms in Saudi Arabia, and receiving rejection of her
position to cut aid to Palestinians. On her visit to
Lebanon, pro-government dailies, Al-Akhbar and Al-
Gomhouriyya, for example, called her unscheduled visit to
Lebanon a vehicle to demand that Lahoud resign. Lead
independent daily, Al Masry Al Yom, reported that Secretary
Rice admitted that the region differs with Washington on
Hamas. The same paper on the same day also printed a story
with the headline, American newspaper says Rice Refused to
Meet Moslem Brothers which quotes the Christian Science
Monitor reporting that Secretary Rice spoke openly about
openly about
Hamas during her tour of the Middle East and that
Secretary Rice confirmed to a group of dissidents that

the U.S. will continue to apply pressure toward reform and
quoted activists who told the Secretary that President
Mubarak has provided a false choice between his rule and
the Moslem Brothers. Al-Wafds front page story on
February 24 led with the headline, Rice Failed to convince
Egypt and Saudi to Isolate Hamas Financially and
Politically and reported that Secretary Rice failed to
convince Arab leaders to cut assistance to the new Hamas-
led Palestinian government and to isolate it politically.

4. Television Talk Show Coverage. On February 22,
satellite television, Dream TVs evening program, 10 PM",
gave special coverage to the Secretarys visit, including
her civil society meeting. The program provided the names
of the participants in the meeting, which they
characterized as secret. On the same evening, Nile TV
hosted Ambassador Ahmed Abul Khair, former Assistant
former Assistant
Foreign Minister, who criticized Secretary Rices call on
Hamas to choose either politics or terrorism. He added
that, if the U.S. continues to refuse to sign the FTA with
the GOE due its support of Hamas, the GOE should tell the
U.S., "We don't want your money. On February 23, the
trailer for Secretary Rices exclusive interview with
Egyptian Television was aired on every news service on
Egyptian TV, and the full interview was aired with
subtitles on prime time, following the main news at 2100,
and on Good morning Egypt. On February 23, both Al-
Jazeera and Al-Arabia hosted Hala Mustafa, one of the
participants in the civil society meeting with the
Secretary, via phone. Ms. Mustafa said the group did not

include opposition figures, rather an independent group of
intellectuals from different organizations. She asserted
that neither Secretary Rice nor the participants had any
special agenda, and that the Secretary was keen to listen
to views on political reform in Egypt. She added that the
issues of Iraq, Hamas and Iran were discussed.

5. Commentaries in Independent and Opposition Papers. On
February 22, a contributor to lead independent daily, Al
Masry Al Yom, argued that if the U.S.s claims against
Iran are true, then her reason for visiting the region is
to prepare for a military attack on Iran. He noted a
change in U.S. policy toward Egypt which is critical of
the ruling against Ayman Nour while remaining silent on the
postponement of the municipal elections and continuing full
assistance to Egypt. On February 22 and 23, columns in
independent daily, Nahdet Misr, urged the Secretary to
carry a clear message back to the U.S. that Egypt totally
rejects flagrant interference in its affairs, that
Egyptians will never accept that from this Secretary whose
country hates Egypt, who has failed in the region, and is
adopting double standards. The columnist stressed that
ssed that
Secretary Rice refuses to understand Egypts reiterations

that it does not accept U.S. or other pressures, that it
rejects the repetition of the Iraqi scenario in Syria and
its threats of cutting aid. The piece concluded that
Egyptians no longer believe the U.S.s ridiculous slogans
about democracy. Another contributor to Nahdet Misr on
February 23 speculated that the U.S.s ulterior motives
are to convince the GOE to pressure Hamas, to support the
U.S.s position on Iran, and to be dragged into the Iraqi
arena, and that any talk about Egypts democracy is nothing
but blackmail. A letter to the editor which was published
on February 24 in Al-Masry Al-Yom expressed the fear that
Egypt is responding to U.S. pressures, as we did when we
increased our representation in Iraq, and I do not think
Rices demands are different this time. Opposition daily,
Al Wafds February 25 column asserted that, Secretary
Rices visit was aimed at blocking Palestinians, isolating
nians, isolating
Iran despite its right to possess nuclear power, and
improving the U.S.s impasse in Iraq before Congressional
elections. The columnist concluded by urging Arabs to
extend assistance to Palestinians.

7. Commentaries from Leading, Pro-Government daily, Al-
Ahram. The paper ran a column on February 22 and an
editorial on February 23. The columnist speculated over
Secretary Rices concern over the postponement of Egyptian

elections while lacking the same concerns for torturing
Iraqis and punishing Palestinians for their democratic
elections. The columnist asserted that the U.S. seems to
use democracy to punish Arabs, pointing out that
Palestinians are being punished for democracy the same way
Iraqis were sanctioned for dictatorship. On February 23,
an unsigned editorial pointed to Secretary Rices
statements during her visit as proof that the U.S. -
Egyptian relations are strategic, widespread and balanced
and this is the reason that differences can appear. Her
n appear. Her
comments on democracy were characterized as friendly and
not judgmental, as confirmation of Egypts role in the
heart of the region and the editorial explained that the
American democratic model is not to be imposed which
revealed that the bilateral relations are governed by
mutual respect and realization of mutual importance.

8. Commentaries from Pro-Government daily, Al-Akhbar. An
unsigned editorial on February 23 highlighted that
Secretary Rices visit to the Middle East came at a

critical time after Hamas victory and during Israels
preparations for new elections. The editorial highlighted
the importance of maintaining assistance to the Palestinian
people and conveyed hope that Secretary Rice will bring
this message to the Israelis. A column on the same day
looked at Secretary Rices friendly words at the press
conference with FM Abul Gheit, but noted that these
friendly statements contradict earlier statements of other
American officials and do not explain why the FTA
xplain why the FTA
negotiations were suspended. An unsigned editorial on
February 24 advised the U.S. to follow Mubaraks advice
that Hamas should be given time to cope with its new
political situation, and that Egyptian leadership and
counsel is the best way to prevent the collapse of peace
between Palestinians and Israel. The editorial noted also
that Egypt is sincerely committed to the peace process and
is the only country in the Middle East that can work with
all parties concerned.

9. Commentaries from Pro-government weekly, Akhbar Al Yom.
A February 25 column portended that Secretary Rices
declarations regarding expansion of transformational
diplomacy and the role of the American diplomat shows the
decrease of the U.S. influence that was gained after the
fall of the Soviet Union. Another column on the same day
looked at the Secretarys visit to Egypt as a method to
ease Egypts positions on Hamas and Iran. The columnist
observed that while the U.S. and Egypt agree on general
agree on general
strategies, they differ in methods of implementation, which
is why they agreed to resume the strategic dialogue. She
also highlighted that Rices visit did not garner the
usual media attention, due to the national concern with
internal issues, like the ferry accident and Avian
Influenza. She stressed that it is normal that the two
sides have differences, but regular dialogue is important.

10. Commentaries from Pro-Government, Al-Gomhouriyya. The
numerous commentaries in this sometimes anti-American daily
began with a February 22 column which asserted that
Secretary Rice does not care about Nour or elections, but

is more interested in Irans nuclear capabilities. The
columnist urged the Secretary to look at Americas human
rights violations before asking about Egypts democracy.
On the same day, another columnist warned the Secretary
against repeating the same announcements and warnings
concerning democracy before every visit to the region
the region
because such announcements amount to interference in
internal affairs from a country who is responsible for
the mistakes and sins of Iraq, Abou Ghreib, Guantanamo, and
domestic surveillance. He advised the American
administration to respect the will of the Egyptian people
and expressed disgust at any attempt to impose
guardianship. A February 24 column quoted Secretary Rice
and Assistant Secretary Welch stating they are not against
the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. The columnist advised
that and if the Muslim Brotherhood wants to be recognized
internationally they should cooperate with the U.S.
Another column on the same day, by a well-known writer but
occasional contributor to the paper described Secretary
Rice as the High Commissioner and argued that U.S.
policies around the world have been catastrophic. He
concluded that Secretary Rice is practicing political
thuggery which will eventually harm the U.S