CAIRO, Jan. 28 — U.S. diplomats repeatedly raised concerns with Egyptian officials about jailed dissidents and bloggers and followed reports of torture by police, according to cables released by WikiLeaks Friday.
A May 2009 cable also noted the Egyptian government's use of "heavy-handed tactics against individuals and groups" after riots over bread prices broke out in 2008, in the first major public disorder for 31 years, The New York Times reported.
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The cable, signed by Ambassador Margaret Scobey, said the response had been prompted by the growing strength of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.
It described Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as a "tried and true realist" and a survivor, someone who preferred to "let a few individuals suffer than risk chaos for society as a whole," according to the Times.Story: WikiLeaks cyber attacks bring FBI search warrants
"During his 28-year rule, he survived at least three assassination attempts, maintained peace with Israel, weathered two wars in Iraq and post-2003 regional instability, intermittent economic downturns, and a manageable but chronic internal terrorist threat," the cable said.
Egypt is one of the most important U.S. allies in the Arab world but as the Mideast country sees the biggest anti-government protests in years, inspired by the popular revolt in Tunisia, the public support of the U.S. has become less assured.Story: Egyptian military deploys in Cairo under curfew
In an interview broadcast live on YouTube on Thursday, Obama said that Mubarak has been "an ally of ours on a lot of critical issues."
But Obama added: "I've always said to him that making sure that they're moving forward on reform, political reform and economic reform, is absolutely critical to the long-term well-being of Egypt."
WikiLeaks also published a U.S. diplomatic cable about a meeting between Senator John Kerry and Qatar Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who is referred to as HBJ.
The "confidential" cable, dated February 2010 and sent by Ambassador Joseph E. LeBaron, discussed Egypt's role in Mideast peace process.
Al-Thani is said to have claimed Egypt had a vested interest in dragging out the talks for as long as possible as their role as a broker was its "only business interest with the U.S."
It also discussed Mubarak's domestic situation, saying he was "thinking about how his son can take his place and how to stave off the growing strength of the Muslim Brotherhood."
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"The Egyptian 'people blame America' now for their plight. The shift in mood on the ground is 'mostly because of Mubarak and his close ties' to the United States," the cable summarized al-Thani as saying.
The cable said Al-Thani told Kerry that Qatar was worried about "Egypt and its people, who are increasingly impatient."Story: Egyptian bloggers brave police intimidation
"Mubarak, continued HBJ, says (Qatar-based) Al Jazeera is the source of Egypt's problems. This is an excuse. HBJ had told Mubarak 'we would stop Al Jazeera for a year' if he agreed in that span of time to deliver a lasting settlement for the Palestinians. Mubarak said nothing in response, according to HBJ," the cable added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.