Iran Divides Mubarak’s Troubleshooter, Opposition’s ElBaradei

Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief picked by President Hosni Mubarak to save his regime, advised the U.S. not to negotiate with Iran, in contrast to opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei’s call to engage Tehran’s regime.

The U.S. should “not walk the same track as the Europeans’ in regards to negotiating with Iran,” Suleiman told Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an April 21, 2009, Cairo meeting, according to a cable posted on the Wikileaks website.

One day before that in Beijing, 8,125 kilometers (5,049 miles) away, ElBaradei told reporters that more U.S. engagement with Tehran’s leaders would increase regional security.

The contrast shows how the battle over who succeeds Mubarak will have a wider regional impact. Suleiman was appointed vice president last week and has offered to hold talks with opposition figures demanding Mubarak’s resignation. ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and ex-United Nations atomic chief, has offered to lead a transitional government.

Mubarak announced last night that he won’t run for another term after hundreds of thousands of people rallied against him and his regime in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the culmination of a weeklong uprising.

Iran “is very active in Egypt” and was giving Hamas $25 million a month in aid, Suleiman told Mullen in his role as chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service. He advised the U.S. not to focus with Iran “on one issue at a time, like Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” according to the cable.

ElBaradei had urged the U.S. to start negotiations with Iran over the Persian Gulf country’s nuclear work, the subject of UN Security Council sanctions because of international fears that Tehran’s regime was building a bomb.

‘Essential’ Step

ElBaradei tried thawing relations between Iran and the U.S. during his 12-year tenure as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency that ended in December 2009. He called President Barack Obama’s first overtures to negotiate with Iran critical to establishing regional peace.

It is a “first step in a very long growth toward normalization between Iran and the United States after 50 years of warring,” he said in a November 2009 interview with Charlie Rose. “Iran could be a very positive element in the stable Middle East. Iran could be absolutely essential to stability in Afghanistan, in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestinian territories.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at jtirone@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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