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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The rift between Mr Netanyahu's government and the US appeared to deepen yesterday, with a clear declaration by President Barack Obama that a freeze –

Maybe Barack Obama chose Egypt for his "great message" to Muslims tomorrow because it contains a quarter of the world's Arab population, but he is also coming to one of the region's most repressed, undemocratic and ruthless police states. Egyptian human rights groups – when they are not themselves being harassed or closed down by the authorities – have recorded a breathtaking list of police torture, extra-judicial killings, political imprisonments and state-sanctioned assaults on opposition figures that continues to this day.

The sad truth is that so far did the US descend in moral power under George W Bush that Obama would probably have to deliver his lecture in the occupied West Bank, even Gaza, to change the deep resentment and fury that has built up among Muslims over the past eight years. This, of course, Obama will not do. So Egypt, sadly, it has to be, though he will see nothing of the squalor and fear in which Egyptians live.

Only a week ago, for example, the leader of the opposition Ghad party, Ayman Nour – only released from prison by President Hosni Mubarak's regime in February – complained that he was assaulted in a Cairo street by a man with a make-shift flamethrower, suffering first degree burns to his face. Mr Nour spent three years in jail and is outraged by Obama's visit. "It seems to have been intended to bolster the power of the regimes, not of the people," he said. "We are absolutely astonished that our Egyptian political and civil society are ignored. It gives the impression that American interests are more important than American principles." The investigations of human rights groups show Mr Nour has every reason to be angry.


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