US troubled by rising anti-Americanism in Egypt

WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama administration on Wednesday expressed concern about a "creeping" trend of anti-American sentiment in Egypt, where it says it has noticed mounting attacks and criticism of US aid and motives as the country transitions to democracy.

The State Department said it has raised the matter with Egyptian officials. It complained that the criticism is "inaccurate" and "unfair" and that personal attacks lodged against Anne Patterson, the new US Ambassador to Egypt, are "unacceptable."

"With regard to this kind of anti-Americanism that's creeping into the Egyptian public discourse, we are concerned," department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "We've expressed these concerns to the Egyptian government. We think this kind of representation of the United States is not only inaccurate; it's unfair. We are very strong supporters of Egypt's transition to a democratic future, and we will continue to be there for Egypt."

Nuland said Patterson "is one of our finest, most respected, most experienced ambassadors around the world. And she is in Egypt to represent US policy and the American people's aspiration to support a strong, democratic, prosperous Egypt."

US officials said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raised the matter with Egypt's new intelligence chief, Major General Murad Muwafi, in a 28 July meeting in Washington. However, the trend has continued with some accusing Washington of interference and fanning instability since the ouster earlier this year of authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak, a longtime US ally.

During a July visit to Washington, Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Assar, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, criticized the United States for funding pro-democracy groups away from Egyptian government supervision.

At a conference hosted by the US Institute of Peace, al-Assar said that some countries including the United States have violated the Egyptian laws in their funding Egyptian NGOs and said that Egyptians were opposed to "foreign interference," according to a statement by USIP posted on its website. He added, "It is a matter of sovereignty."

Hours earlier on the same day, he met with a number of scholars at the headquarters of the Egyptian consulate. He reiterated same notion and said, "all foreign funding should be subject to scrutiny in Egypt."

The 31 July issue of a state-run magazine featured a cover depicting Patterson as holding a burning wad of dollars to the wick of a bomb wrapped in an American flag. The headline read: "The ambassador from Hell who lit a fire in Tahrir," a reference to Cairo's Tahrir Square, which was the epicenter of the uprising that toppled Mubarak in February.

Earlier this week, Egypt's prestigious state-run daily Al-Ahram quoted a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdel Rahman Salem, as saying Patterson "has an anti-Islamic history and her role is to spread chaos in Egypt." He referred to Patterson's previous post in Pakistan and claimed that she "has relations with CIA."

"She will work on dismantling the Egyptian society just as she did in Pakistan," he was quoted as saying. He criticized her previous remarks about the US aid to NGOs to promote democracy and said, "it doesn't serve the revolution goals in Egypt."

The administration has been surprised by a rise in anti-American sentiment in the Mideast, particularly in Egypt where President Barack Obama delivered a 2009 speech intended to ease tensions between the United States and the Arab and Muslim world.

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