Alex Massie

Egyptian Reformers Boycott Obama’s Speech

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More on the disappointing lack of emphasis Obama places on human rights and democratic reform. Mike Crowley reports from Cairo that Ayman Nour, the Egyptian dissident, has turned down an invitation to attend Obama's speech tomorrow:

The president's reticence to push Mubarak about democracy, Nour says, has been "a huge disappointment, not only from Egypt's perspective but for reformers all over the world. It's not in line with what he promised during the campaign, or with his inaugural speech on January 20." In particular, Nour called the recent 60 percent reduction of U.S. aid for democracy promotion in Egypt a "grave" move, and said that a new approach of channeling that aid through the government, rather than sending it directly to NGO-style groups. would be "as if it didn't come" once pocket-lining officials are done with it. The result will be continued state of repression that allows terrorism and extremism to flourish, he warns.

Now it is quite possible that liberals such as Nour are not the best hope for reform in the arab world and that islamic parties are. Nonetheless it is, shall we say, disappointing that the new President, reacting to his predecessor's perceived excessive enthusiasm for democracy promotion, should be moving so far in the other direction. Realism is important, but it's not the only show in town.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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