Moussa announces run for Egyptian presidency

Highly popular at home, Arab League chief has often been a scathing critic of Israel.

By OREN KESSLER
February 27, 2011 22:16
2 minute read.
Amr Moussa at World Economic Forum

Amr Moussa pensive (R) 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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The chief of the Arab League said on Sunday he would run in this year’s presidential elections in Egypt, a day after a panel recommended reforms that would relax the eligibility requirements for potential candidates.

Amr Moussa, an often-scathing critic of Israel through his decade heading the Arab bloc, enjoys wide popularity in Egypt and would be a leading candidate to replace Hosni Mubarak, ousted on February 11 after 30 years in power.

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The state news agency MENA announced Moussa’s decision via its text message service.

“I intend to run in the next presidential election, and an [official] announcement will be made at the right time,” MENA quoted him as saying, adding that a new Egyptian figure would be picked “very soon” to head the 22-member pan-Arab organization.

If adopted in a national referendum, Egypt’s proposed constitutional changes would open its presidential elections to competition and impose a two-term limit on presidents – a dramatic shift from a system that allowed Mubarak to rule for decades.

Charismatic and engaging, the former foreign minister was one of the first Arab public figures to side with popular protests upon the outbreak of the Tunisian uprising in December.

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“The Arab soul is broken by poverty, unemployment and general recession,” he told a meeting of Arab leaders. “The political problems, the majority of which have not been fixed... have driven the Arab citizen to a state of unprecedented anger and frustration.”

Much of Moussa’s popularity with average Egyptians stems from his consistently hard line against Israel. Following the Israel Navy’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla last May, Moussa accused Jerusalem of continued “atrocity and assault” and of violating human rights and international law, while praising Turkey for challenging Israel’s blockade on the coastal territory.

He has often questioned Israel’s commitment to the peace process.

“Israel has not accepted the two-state solution. Until now there is not one official statement that Israel accepts the two-state solution and accepts to have a viable Palestinian state,” he said in February 2009. “The Israelis do not want a Palestinian state.”

Moussa, 74, has also criticized the United States and its allies for what he views as double standards in singling out Iran’s nuclear program while ignoring Israel’s own reputed arsenal.

“Israeli policy disregards international opinion,” he told French television in April. “They believe that they have that right according to their own logic, which no one else agrees with.”

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