msnbc.com staff and news service reports

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.

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"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.

Photos: Farewell Friday

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  1. Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Feb. 11. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Egyptians set off fireworks as they celebrate in Cairo’s Tahrir Square after President Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. President Barack Obama makes a statement on the resignation of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in the Grand Foyer at the White House in Washington D.C. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir Square after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military on Friday. Egypt exploded with joy, tears, and relief after pro-democracy protesters brought down President Hosni Mubarak with a momentous march on his palaces and state TV. Mubarak, who until the end seemed unable to grasp the depth of resentment over his three decades of authoritarian rule, finally resigned Friday. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Protesters walk over a barricade after it was taken down to allow free entry to hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in Tahrir Square in Cairo February 11, 2011. A furious wave of protest finally swept Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak from power, sending a warning to autocrats across the Arab world and beyond. (Yannis Behrakis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A spokesman for Egypt's higher military council reads a statement titled “Communiqué No. 3” in this video still on Friday. Egypt's higher military council said it would announce measures for a transitional phase after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. (Reuters Tv / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Egyptian celebrates in Cairo after the announcement of President Mubarak's resignation. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Friday. A furious wave of protest finally swept Mubarak from power after 30 years of one-man rule, sparking jubilation in the streets. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. An Egyptian reacts in the street after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military in Cairo, Egypt, on Friday, Feb. 11. (Amr Nabil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Thousands of Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation on Friday. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Egyptian soldiers celebrate with anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square on Friday. Cairo's streets exploded in joy when Mubarak stepped down after three-decades of autocratic rule and handed power to a junta of senior military commanders. (Marco Longari / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Friday. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Egyptians celebrate the news of Mubarak's resignation in Tahrir Square on Friday. (Tara Todras-whitehill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An Egyptian woman cries as she celebrates the news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who handed control of the country to the military, Friday night, in Tahrir Square, Cairo. (Tara Todras-whitehill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate minutes after the announcement on television of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday. Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had resigned. (Khaled Elfiqi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Opposition protesters celebrate Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak's resignation, in Tahrir Square on Friday. President Mubarak bowed to pressure from the street and resigned, handing power to the army. (Suhaib Salem / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Friday. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. On Egyptian state television, Al-Masriya, Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman delivers an address announcing that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down, in Cairo on Friday. (TV via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo
    Dylan Martinez / Reuters
    Above: Slideshow (18) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Farewell Friday
  2. Image: Protester in Tahrir Square
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    Slideshow (61) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Week 3
  3. Image: Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters
    Amr Nabil / AP
    Slideshow (93) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Week 2
  4. Image: Mohamed ElBaradei
    Khalil Hamra / AP
    Slideshow (83) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Week 1
  5. Image:
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    Slideshow (17) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - World reacts

Video: As Arab revolt spreads, Egypt braces for 'Day of Rage'

  1. Closed captioning of: As Arab revolt spreads, Egypt braces for 'Day of Rage'

    >>> there is increasing evidence the world is changing, in spots and in stages. a movement that started in tunisia has now done what a lot of governments feared it would. it has spread elsewhere in the arab world . this week to egypt . as of today, yemen and the world is watching as the clock ticks down to what has been planned as a day of rage tomorrow against egypt . richard engle is on the banks of the nile in cairo tonight on what could be the eve of something big there. richard , good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. many people are very concerned about tomorrow. the demonstrators say they will start out from at least seven mosques and three churches here in cairo , and then plan to march to the center of the city. they hope to draw tens of thousands of people. the most violent clashes today were outside cairo . near the strategic suez canal , demonstrators torched a police station and a firehouse. witnesses say they stole weapons and opened fire on security forces . egyptian police tell nbc news 87 policemen were injured, one was killed. and this unprecedented popular arab revolt is spreading. in yemen, the arab world 's poorest nation, thousands demonstrated today at a university, demanding reform and lower prices. in tunisia, where this movement began just last month, the emerging new government caved to protesters' demands and agreed to purge officials associated with the ousted former president. a pattern is starting to emerge. the regimes under fire are pro-western police states , widely accused of corruption. and the protests are being organized through social networks .

    >> blackberry is down.

    >> reporter: in a rundown cairo office today, human rights activist sally sammy used twitter, facebook and blackberry messenger to help organize major demonstrations scheduled for tomorrow.

    >> one march can start with 300 or 400 people and grow into thousands and this is what's stressing the state.

    >> reporter: people are already angry in egypt . half live in poverty. but with instant, hand-held communications, now they know they're not alone. perhaps appropriately, president obama today spoke on youtube to call for calm.

    >> so the government has to be careful about not resorting to violence and the people on the streets have to be careful about not resorting to violence.

    >> reporter: egypt 's hosni mubarak , president for almost 30 years, has so far remained silent. but he may now have a rival. the former head of the u.n.'s nuclear monitoring agency and nobel laureate , mohamed elbaradei arrived in cairo today to join tomorrow's protests.

    >> i have said a number of times that the right for peaceful demonstration is an absolute right of eevery human being .

    >> reporter: he has expressed interest in becoming president. tomorrow's demonstrations could be a turning point. the united states , brian, is in a difficult position. of course it doesn't want to be seen as going against the democratic movement , but president mubarak has long been a stable u.s. ally. egypt has a peace treaty with israel. and this country does control the suez canal , so a lot is riding on this.

    >> richard engle in cairo . he'll be covering the story when day breaks there. richard , thanks.

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