The United States’ ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, has sent a strongly-worded letter to the editor of Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram criticising a front page article that suggested Patterson was engaging in conspiracies with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Editor-in-chief Abdel Nasser Salama, who wrote the article published on Tuesday, accused Patterson in the article of conspiring with leading Brotherhood figure Khairat El-Shater to “spread chaos” in Egypt through smuggling fighters from Gaza to “hit the country’s stability.”
In her letter, Patterson attacked Al-Ahram for spreading what she said was false and misleading information.
“I am writing to adamantly deny the outrageous, fictitious, and thoroughly unprofessional headline article that appeared in your paper on August 27,” she wrote in a letter published by the US embassy in Cairo’s website.
Addressing Salama, Patterson said: “Your article’s claim that I personally am involved in a conspiracy to divide and destabilise Egypt is absolutely absurd and dangerous.”
She added saying that the “irresponsibility of this article only serves to further misinform and misguide your readership, and to further raise tensions in an already perilously tense environment.”
Egypt has been undergoing a long period of instability after the removal Muslim Brotherhood figure Mohamed Morsi from the presidency in July by the military after mass protests against his rule.
The Al-Ahram article also accused the United States and other unspecified European countries of being complicit in a plan by Islamists to declare Upper Egypt independent from the government in Cairo.
It said both plans – the secession of the south and that of spreading chaos – were thwarted by security forces. In the article, Salama quoted unnamed security sources as the source of the information.
Patterson warned Salama that such “fiction” threatens the prospects of Egypt’s democratisation. “Make no mistake – false articles such as this one are a real threat to Egypt and to prospects for Egypt’s democratic transition,” she wrote.
Patterson also said that she will discuss the issue with Egyptian government officials.
“I am particularly disturbed to think that Al-Ahram, as the flagship state-run paper in Egypt, is regarded as a representative of the government’s viewpoint. We will, therefore, raise this article at the highest levels of the government,” she asserted.
Ambassador Anne Patterson's assignment in Egypt ended this week. She is expected to leave the country on Friday.
Patterson was appointed as US ambassador to Egypt in June 2011. In recent months she has faced regular accusations by opponents of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi of being biased towards the Muslim Brotherhood.
Al-Ahram daily is published by the state-owned Al-Ahram publishing house, which also produces the Ahram Online website.