OSLO - The United States has pumped tens of millions of dollars into pro-democracy organisations in Egypt to the dismay of beleaguered President Hosni Mubarak, according to diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and published by a Norwegian paper Friday.
Another release of cables by the whistleblowing website itself meanwhile painted a gloomy picture of any willingness by President Hosni Mubarak to introduce meaningful reforms.
According to a December 6, 2007, cable posted online Friday by Norway's paper of reference Aftenposten, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) planned to dedicate 66.5 million dollars in 2008 and 75 million in 2009 to Egyptian programmes promoting democracy and good governance.
"President Mubarak is deeply skeptical of the US role in democracy promotion," reads another cable from the US embassy in Cairo dated October 9, 2007, also posted Friday by the Norwegian daily.
"Nonetheless, (US government) programs are helping to establish democratic institutions and strengthen individual voices for change in Egypt," that cable adds.
According to Aftenposten, which has laid its hands on all of the more than 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables leaked to WikiLeaks, the United States has thus directly contributed to "building up the forces that oppose the President" Mubarak.
Egypt has since Tuesday been rocked by massive protests against Mubarak's 30-year rule.
The second diplomatic cable published by Aftenposten says the money spent by Washington for democracy promotion was aimed both at programmes run by the Egyptian government itself and by Egyptian and US NGOs working in the field.
Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Aboulnaga had sent a letter to the embassy requesting that USAID stop financing 10 of the organisations "on the grounds that (they) have not been properly registered as NGOs" according to a third cable dated February 28, 2008.
Generally considered Mubarak's designated successor, his son Gamal is also described in a fourth cable, dated October 20, 2008, as "irritable about direct US democracy and governance funding of Egyptian NGO's."
Another release Friday of cables dating from 2009 and 2010, posted by WikiLeaks on its "Cable Viewer" site, described Mubarak as a "classic Egyptian secularist who hates religious extremism and interference in politics."
The cables showed that the United States repeatedly encouraged Egypt to introduce political reforms, abolish the decades-old emergency law, which restricts freedom of assembly, and respect human rights.
Mubarak complained that any effort to open up the political arena would empower the Muslim Brotherhood and he warned that he "would not tolerate" the existence of political parties with a religious agenda, Muslim or Christian.
Egypt chafed at US support for civil society, saying it funds NGOs and human rights organisations dominated by "communists and extremists."
A member of the ruling National Democratic Party and a former minister, Ali El Deen Hilal, called the opposition weak and described democracy as a "long term goal."
He reminded the United States that "the real centre of power in Egypt is the military" and security forces.