Cablegate: Corrected Copy - Unesco Vote Incites Press, Goe Ready to Move On

DE RUEHEG #1912/01 2781403
P 051403Z OCT 09 ZDS

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 001912




E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/01/2019
SUBJECT: CORRECTED COPY - UNESCO VOTE INCITES PRESS, GOE READY TO MOVE ON REF: A. PARIS 1301 B. CAIRO 1804 CAIRO 00001912 001.3 OF 002 Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1.(C) Key Issues: -- Intense criticism of the U.S., Israel, the "Jewish Lobby", and to a lesser extent Europe, in the Egyptian media followed Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny's failed bid to become Director General of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). -- More nuanced views that Hosny was not the right candidate have surfaced in the media in recent days but have not been well received. -- While public remarks from the Foreign Minister track with public criticism, privately, GoE officials have sent the message that the GoE wants to move beyond this incident. ------------------------------ Media Reaction to Hosny's Loss ------------------------------

2.(C) Egyptian media reaction to Hosny,s September 22 UNESCO loss was furious. TV and print commentators felt this was a clear anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, and even anti-Egypt message from the Obama administration, and resurrected the U.S.-Zionist conspiracy explanation for this outcome. This was the first time since President Obama,s election that we have seen widespread media anger with the U.S., shared by commentators across the political spectrum. Ibrahim Eissa, editor in chief of Independent sensationalist daily Al Dostour, characterized Hosny as a valiant fighter, saying "He found himself the target of Israeli and American bullets. He fought with shrewdness and flexibility a battle against snaky international political and media authorities that are experts in defamation." Egytptian commentators also expressed frustration with the votes against Hosny from those African and European states from which they expected support.

3.(C) Many will say privately that Hosny does not have the skills or popularity to head UNESCO, but only in recent days has this view even appeared in the public discourse. Media outlets that have not aggressively blamed the U.S. and Zionist influences have been accused of being part of the conspiracy, resulting in a ratcheting down of their contacts with the U.S. Embassy. English-language Daily News editor Rania Al Malky took the strongest stand against the prevailing anger and wrote on Sept 25, 2009, "I will say this at the risk of being branded unpatriotic, but no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, you must admit that the Egyptian administration did not deserve to win this bid. How can a 22-year minister of a country where culture, education, health and science have regressed to the dark ages become head of the UNESCO?" -------------------- GOE Wants to Move On --------------------

4.(C) Government comments to the media have alluded to the same conspiracy. In private, however, the message from government representatives has been more muted. After initial frustration over what MFA staff called a "mixed message" on the extent of U.S. efforts to block Hosny's nomination, GoE representatives seem eager to put this issue behind them.

5.(C) Following a September 29 meeting with the Ambassador on bilateral trade priorities, the Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohammed Rachid told the Ambassador that he had raised Culture Minister Farouk Hosny's reaction to his lost bid at UNESCO with President Mubarak, calling it an "irritant." Rachid said that he had expressed frustration that Hosny's reaction was fueling the media criticism and making his job more difficult. According to Rachid, President Mubarak agreed that the media was "out of control" and that Hosny's comments had been damaging. Mubarak told Rachid that he had already told Hosny to stop making comments to the press. (Comment: In recent days we have seen a tapering off of TV programs and editorial pages dedicated to Hosny's loss. This may be a reaction to the GoE efforts to put the story to bed. It may also reflect a petering out of interest in a Culture Minister who is generally unpopular. End Comment.)

6.(C) In a September 27 meeting with the Ambassador, Minister of Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Moufid CAIRO 00001912 002.2 OF 002 Shehab commented on Minister of Culture Farouk Hosny's UNESCO bid an "individual" loss, reflecting the candidate's qualifications, rather than a national one, saying "other candidates lost as well." Shehab called the 29 votes Hosny won a credit to Egypt's engagement on his behalf and "more than we could have expected," suggesting it was a learning experience on campaigns to support Egyptian candidates for UN posts. Shehab expressed frustration at Minister Hosny's comments to the media about the U.S. role in "derailing" his bid. Shehab was also critical of the media firestorm in Egypt and commented that "the media would have you think this is a national crisis." In his view, the decision was not a reflection of Egypt's role in the world or its relations with the U.S., in fact, he said he was optimistic about the future of the bilateral relationship. Scobey

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