INTERVIEW-Egypt general could be new leader-Islamist

Tue Feb 1, 2011 2:23pm GMT
 

* Army chief could be "man of Egypt" - Helbawy

* Says knows Islamists cannot rule Egypt alone

By William Maclean, Security Correspondent

LONDON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Egypt's armed forces chief of staff Sami Enan could be an acceptable successor to Hosni Mubarak because he is perceived as incorruptible, a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood said on Tuesday.

Kamel El-Helbawy, a prominent overseas cleric from Egypt's main opposition movement, told Reuters that Enan, who has good ties with Washington, was a liberal who could be seen as suitable by an opposition coalition taking shape on the streets of Egypt.

"He can be the future man of Egypt," Helbawy said in a telephone interview.

"I think he will be acceptable ... because he has enjoyed some good reputation. He is not involved in corruption. The people do not know him (as corrupt)."

Helbawy said Enan was not an Islamist but "a good, liberal man".

Little is known internationally about Enan, believed to be in his early 60s, other than he appears to have spent much of his career in air defence.

A profile on Silobreaker, the news and information monitoring service, gives his date and place of birth as 1948, in Cairo, and says he was trained in both Russia and France as well at a military academy in Egypt.

He held senior roles in air defence before being appointed to his current job in 2005, the website indicates.

The site can be found at. here

Egypt's military -- the world's 10th largest with more than 468,000 members -- have been a central force in politics since army officers staged an overthrow of the monarchy in 1952.

A member since 1952, Helbawy has long been a prominent member of the Brotherhood's overseas thinkers, working in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Britain.

In the mid-1990s he served as the Brotherhood's spokesman in the West, and helped create the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Association of Britain.

Enan appears to have cordial ties with Washington.

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held a telephone conversation with Enan on Sunday in which he urged restraint from Egypt's military, but at the same time praised the "professionalism" of Egypt's armed forces, a Pentagon spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, said at that time.

Egypt receives about $1.3 billion a year in U.S. military aid, assistance that could be jeopardized if the army moved against the demonstrations.

Enan and more than 20 other Egyptian officers were in Washington for long-planned talks when the unrest broke out in Cairo and other cities. They were attending the Military Cooperation Committee, an Egyptian-U.S. body that is chaired by Enan and Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense Sandy Vershbow.

As a result of the situation at home, Enan cut short the mission and flew home.

Helbawy added that an opposition "coalition" led by former Egyptian diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei felt Mubarak's departure was "the only way to avoid bloodshed and avoid more conflict".

"So he should be advised, especially by the Americans, to leave the country or to just step down."

Helbawy said new Vice President Omar Suleiman could be an interim leader but not a long-term successor to Mubarak.

The Brotherhood is Egypt's largest opposition movement and is likely to influence the shaping of any post-Mubarak Egypt.

Helbawy said of the Brotherhood's role: "The Brotherhood is now forming a part of this coalition led by ElBaradei, so they are no longer working for their own private agenda. They are working in a coalition with ElBaradei."

It has promoted itself in recent years as a reformist group struggling against Mubarak's autocracy.

In London on Saturday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters Britain would "would not want to see a government based on the Muslim Brotherhood", although it was not up to Britain to determine who ran Egypt.

Western governments disapprove of the Brotherhood's support of the Palestinian movement Hamas, which is listed as a terrorist group by the European Union and Washington (Editing by Giles Elgood)

 
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