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Cablegate: Mubarak Claims Progress On Reform, Calls For

VZCZCXRO8004
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #3123 2971318
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 241318Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7280
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS CAIRO 003123

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR NEA/ELA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KPAO EG XF
SUBJECT: MUBARAK CLAIMS PROGRESS ON REFORM, CALLS FOR
"RESPONSIBLE FREEDOM"

1. (SBU) Summary: In an address marking the fifth
anniversary of the opening of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina,
President Mubarak said Egypt has "gone a long way" on the
road to reform. Compared to the 1970's, he said, Egyptians
enjoy far greater freedoms now. However, he stressed,
freedom is "both a responsibility and a commitment," and
cannot be used as a cover to slander or encroach on the
freedoms of others. End summary.

2. (SBU) In a speech marking the fifth anniversary of the
opening of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on October 23,
President Mubarak focused on Egypt's political and economic
reform program, noting that Egypt has made great strides, but
that the road to reform would not be "full of roses." He
said he was particularly concerned for Egypt's poorest, and
was doing his utmost to protect them from adverse effects of
a rapidly developing economy.

3. (SBU) Compared to the 1970's, Mubarak continued,
"Egyptians enjoy unprecedented freedoms." Furthermore, he
said, none of these advances could have been made without an
environment of peace, security, and stability. Egyptians
must realize, he stressed, that freedom is "both a
responsibility and a commitment," and that "our freedom ends
when it encroaches on the freedoms of others. Freedom of
expression, opinion, and press does not mean we are free to
slander others."

4. (SBU) Turning to Egypt's regional role, Mubarak said that
there is a close link between Egypt's national security and
that of the region as a whole. "Egypt's peace and stability
hinges on the peace and stability of the entire Middle East."
He added that Egypt is working towards the establishment of
a "just regional peace" that would include an independent
Palestinian state.

5. (SBU) Comment: According to emboff who was in the
audience, Mubarak's tone was defensive, especially when
comparing Egypt's freedoms of today with those of thirty
years ago: "Where were the freedoms of expression and the
press then? Where were the economic advances we enjoy today
then?" He appeared to be addressing his critics at least as
much as promoting positive achievements. Among those critics
is the editor of Al-Dustour newspaper, Ibrahim Eissa, whose
trial resumed today in Cairo on charges of spreading rumors
about Mubarak's health. Mubarak's reference to Egypt's poor
is also noteworthy in light of a recent UN report that showed
a rise in the absolute poverty rate from 16.7 percent of the
population, to 19.6 percent, from 2000 to 2005. As UN
resident coordinator James Rawley put it, "One in every five
Egyptians cannot meet their basic living needs."
RICCIARDONE

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