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Cablegate: Bogus Usg Memo 'Explained' by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 002990

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

LONDON FOR ARABIC MEDIA UNIT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC PROP OIIP KPAO EG
SUBJECT: BOGUS USG MEMO 'EXPLAINED' BY AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT
CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF

Sensitive but unclassified. Not for Internet distribution.
Please protect accordingly.

REF: CAIRO 2877

1. (SBU) Summary: PA officer visited Abdel Latif Al
Manawy, Cairo bureau chief of pan-Arab Al Sharq Al Awsat
newspaper, to discuss an April 3 article appearing on page
9 of that paper referring to an alleged State Department
memo "urging the White House to begin direct talks" with
the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt. During the meeting,
Al Manawy admitted not to have seen the memo and stated he
had made two mistakes: 1) not contacting the Embassy for
confirmation of the memo's veracity; and 2) reporting that
"Western," rather than "Arab," sources had alerted the
bureau to the memo. Al Manawy also admitted that he only
used a single source for the story -- a "trusted Arab
ambassador," who had reported to him the purported memo's
contents. PA officer requested that, in the future, Al
Manawy's office contact the Embassy for comment on issues
relating to USG policies and relations with Egypt. Al
Manawy promised to provide the Embassy with a copy of the
purported memo and other source materials for the article,
but we doubt he will do so. End summary.

2. (SBU) PA officer and senior PA LES visited Abdel Latif
Al Manawy, Cairo bureau chief of London-based Al Sharq Al
Awsat newspaper, on April 18 to discuss an April 3 article
that sourced an alleged State Department memo that
recommended the White House begin "direct talks" with the
MB in Egypt. The article, entitled "Sources: U.S. State
Department Calls for the White House to Begin Direct Talks
with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt," reported that
"Western diplomatic sources" had discussed the memo's
contents with the bureau. The report itself neither quoted
from the alleged memo nor provided details about its date
or author. The article also reported that Embassy Cairo
had begun talks with the MB. No USG officials were quoted
or referenced in the article. Mohammad Habib, Deputy
Supreme Guide of the MB, was quoted denying that the MB was
in dialogue with the USG and stating that any such talks
would take place "under the control" of Egypt's MFA.

3. (SBU) In the meeting, PA officer told Al Manawy that
the Embassy would like to review the memo in question and
asked why the Embassy, or the State Department in
Washington, was not contacted to confirm the memo's
veracity and invited to provide a response. Al Manawy
immediately admitted that it was "a mistake" not to have
contacted the Embassy. He then admitted another mistake:
Rather than referring to "Western" (in Arabic, "western" is
"gharbiya"), the article should have read "Arabic" (in
Arabic, "arabiya") diplomatic sources. The "mistyping" of
the word, Al Manawy claimed, had led readers to
misunderstand the article. When PA officer asked about the
article's sources, Al Manawy admitted there was only one
source: a "trusted Arab ambassador," whom he could not
name. The source had briefed Al Manawy on the memo, which
Al Manawy said he himself had not seen. PA officer pointed
out that the April 3 article had led other Arab media
outlets, trusting Al Sharq Al Awsat's reputation, to report
the "memo," thereby spreading incorrect information. PA
officer requested that Al Manawy's office contact the
Embassy about future articles pertaining to the State
Department and USG-Egypt relations.

4. (SBU) In response, Al Manawy suggested that the real
issue was not the memo itself, but rather whether the USG
really would open talks with the MB. "Many people are
talking about how talks between the U.S. and the
Brotherhood are inevitable," he said. Al Manawy stated
that, by publishing the article, he was just trying to push
forward the discussion on whether USG-MB talks should take
place. PA officer declined to follow that line of argument
and returned the discussion to the article itself and its
questionable sources. The meeting ended with Al Manawy
promising to provide the Embassy with a copy of the memo
and other information his bureau sourced for the article,
by close of business on April 18. (Note: Al Manawy had
not emailed or faxed the Embassy any information, nor
called, as of close of business on April 19. End note.)

5. (SBU) Comment: Al Manawy is known to be ardently pro-
government. It is unlikely that the April 3 article had
the USG as its primary target. Instead, the article was
very possibly a part of an ongoing smear campaign targeting
the MB (reftel). Al Manawy undoubtedly realized that an
article appearing in Al Sharq Al Awsat about USG-MB talks
would resonate in other Arab media outlets, but especially
in Egypt. The article, and rumors circulating among
Egyptian journalists that the MB is to receive USG funds,
succeeded in putting the MB on the defensive. Attesting to
the article's impact on journalists in Cairo, the Embassy's
press office has received a dozen calls since April 3
asking about the alleged USG-MB talks. The Embassy has
forwarded a copy of the April 3 article to Embassy London's
Arabic Media Unit for follow-up with the paper's chief
editor. End comment.

GRAY

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