Egypt: Mubarak ‘a force for good’, says Blair

Feb 2, 2011
Tim Edwards

What are Egyptians complaining about? Tony Blair praises ‘courageous Mubarak’

It seems President Hosni Mubarak isn't the only leader who has grown out of touch with ordinary people following an extended period in power. Tony Blair has praised the Egyptian dictator as a "force for good".

Appearing on Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN, the former British PM said: "Where you stand on [Mubarak] depends on whether you've worked with him from the outside or on the inside.

"I've worked with him on the Middle East peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians so this is somebody I'm constantly working with and on that issue, I have to say, he's been immensely courageous and a force for good."

Blair's intercession on Mubarak's behalf is likely to go down like a lead balloon with the millions of ordinary Egyptians who turned out yesterday to call for their president of 30 years to step down.

And Mubarak has certainly been "a force for good" from the Blair family's perspective: the Egyptian president is known to have given the former British prime minister the use of a government villa in the Red Sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh, which he has used for holidays in the past.

In his defence, the former British prime minister says he has "many Egyptian friends" (presumably he means apart from Mubarak). He also suggests that if Egypt moves too quickly towards democracy it may allow the Islamist opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, into power.

However, secular opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei has dismissed the likelihood of the Muslim Brotherhood leading an Iranian-style fundamentalist revolution, saying they are a minority in Egypt and are prepared to work with him.

But Egyptians wouldn't be the first people to find Blair somewhat patronising in his attitude towards them.

Palestinians have also been at the receiving end of his legendary skills of diplomacy, as revealed in the Palestine Papers - the documents concerning the Middle East peace process leaked to Al Jazeera this month.

Memos from the papers reveal what senior Palestinians think of the Middle East envoy who is supposed to "ensure Israel abides by existing agreements".

"The overall tone," reads one memo, "without making any judgment as to intent, is paternalistic and frequently uses the style and jargon of the Israeli occupation authorities. Some of the terms (eg 'separate lanes' and 'tourist-friendly checkpoints') are unacceptable to Palestinians."

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