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Cablegate: Ibn Khaldun Center Plans New Democracy Programs

VZCZCXYZ0006
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #3426 3401548
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061548Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7667
INFO RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS CAIRO 003426

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ELA, NEA/PI
NSC FOR SINGH AND WATERS
DRL FOR CHEN
USAID FOR ANE/MEA MCCLOUD AND RILEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID KDEM PHUM PINR EG
SUBJECT: IBN KHALDUN CENTER PLANS NEW DEMOCRACY PROGRAMS
DESPITE CHALLENGES

REF: A. CAIRO 3166
B. CAIRO 3283
C. CAIRO 3341

Sensitive but unclassified, not for Internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: The Ibn Khaldun Center is moving forward
with proposals for elections monitoring and other
democracy-promotion programs next year, despite a staff
reorganization forced by the absence of founder Saad Iddin
Ibrahim and the threat of a lawsuit with potentially
debilitating financial consequences. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The Ibn Khaldun Center (IKC) completed $550,000 in
MEPI-funded projects this year to promote political education
and electoral rights in Egypt, including elections
monitoring, democracy workshops, and other activities during
the last two years. The organization began discussing future
proposals with us this summer even as founder Saad Iddin
Ibrahim (SEI) said he feared returning to Egypt following his
participation in international events including the Prague
Conference on Democracy and Security, which President Bush
addressed (ref A), and sharp criticism in the Egyptian press
of SEI's published remarks on democratic reform.

3. (SBU) SEI now faces 13 lawsuits for "spreading false
news" and trying to harm Egypt's economy by calling for cuts
in U.S. assistance to Egypt (ref B), in addition to a recent
lawsuit targeting both SEI and IKC, seeking LE 2 million
(approximately USD 361,000) in damages from the center itself
(ref C).

4. (SBU) In his absence, SEI designated his brother Ahmed
Rizk as temporary director of the center. Rizk has hired a
retired banking executive to improve the center's financial
oversight of its activities, while SEI's wife Barbara
Ibrahim, an IKC board member and professor at the American
University in Cairo, has increased her involvement with
center activities. During the last three months, we have met
frequently with Rizk, Ibrahim and Moheb Zaki, who has been
responsible for IKC publications, to support IKC as it plans
for the future.

5. (SBU) As a result, IKC recently submitted to USAID Cairo
four concept papers briefly outlining plans for four proposed
activities: monitoring local elections in 2008, $96,250;
printing seven publications for one year, $50,000; monitoring
Parliamentary performance of members of the People's
Assembly, $52,000; and legal and judicial assistance,
$100,000. USAID is working with IKC to develop the first
three of these proposals, while we are exploring other
options for the fourth with DRL.

6. (U) In addition, IKC is currently engaged in a $100,000,
two-year Grassroots Democracy and Islam program with USAID
which includes publication of fliers targeted to average
Egyptians on topics such as the rights of women and
minorities; plurality and tolerance; and the relationship
between religion and the state.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: While the lawsuits against SEI complicate
the work of the center and reinforce his own sense that it is
not safe for him to return to Egypt, the lawsuit against IKC
itself could debilitate the center financially and sidetrack
its new plans for democracy promotion in Egypt. Likewise,
while the center has begun to right itself through staff
reorganization during SEI's extended absence, we remain
concerned that it has yet to build sufficient institutional
capacity to meet the ambitions of its dynamic founder. We
will continue to work with the center to help it overcome
these challenges.
RICCIARDONE

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