Mubarak’s vice president, Suleiman, to run for presidency: campaign source

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Former Egyptian vice president Omar Suleiman is likely to declare his candidacy for president before the nominations officially open on March 10, the media coordinator of a campaign supporting him told Al Arabiya on Tuesday.

Marwa Munir said the campaign supporting the former intelligence chief - who was named vice president by ousted president Hosni Mubarak days before the regime collapsed - is gaining more support on Facebook. His expected nomination, she said, would change the opinion polls as present an election surprise.

The Facebook page supporting Suleiman, which has over 33,000 fans, has called for a conference on Friday to be attended by his supporters and Egyptian public figures.

Munir said Suleiman has maintained good relations with everyone and it is not unlikely that even the Muslim Brotherhood will support him, especially, she said, that the Islamist movement had said it would back a “nationalist , faithful candidate.”

“Suleiman has good relations [also] with the Copts, and previously attended the opening of the Abbasiya Cathedral; the republic’s former vice president enjoys the respect and appreciation of liberal and leftist parties, and of some national and revolutionary forces,” Munir told Al Arabiya.

Suleiman also “has great popularity in the governorate of Qena, his birthplace, as well as in Cairo, Alexandria, and some provinces of the Delta,” she added.

Munir said Suleiman will run in the election as an independent and will not represent any political party or force.

Veteran Egyptian writer and columnist Farrag Ismail, however, said Suleiman is unlikely to run for presidency despite the announcement of his supporters.

“We are facing a sign that Omar Suleiman will run for the presidency, and he could do so under pressure from a campaign that volunteered for that end and which he did not appoint.”

“I think, and according to my knowledge, Omar Suleiman - a man of intelligence known for firm resolve - will not run in the presidential elections; he will not take this step,” Ismail told Al Arabiya.

“Suleiman told those close to him that he wants to devote his time to his grandchildren,” he added.

Ismail said the man at the helm of Egypt intelligence for more than two decades “knows that his appointment by Mubarak as vice president prior to the collapse of the regime last year burned his popularity in the country.”

“Besides, his shuttle movements as head of intelligence between Cairo and Tel Aviv and his role mediating between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and in which he appeared biased in favor of the authority cost him popularity, especially among the Muslim Brotherhood, a popular force whose support is essential for any candidate wishing to be elected as president” Ismail said.

“The Muslim Brotherhood are unlikely to strike a deal with the military council on supporting Suleiman for the presidential office because he is seen a long-time Mubarak ally and an enemy of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.”

Suleiman, 76, occupied the vice presidency post for less than two weeks between Jan. 29 and Feb. 11, 2011, the day when Mubarak was forced to resign. Previously, he was deputy head of military intelligence in 1986, and its director in 1991. In 1993, he became the chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS).

He studied in Egypt’s prestigious Military Academy and received additional military training in the Soviet Union at Moscow’s Frunze Military Academy.

Suleiman became close to Mubarak after 1995 when he, reportedly, saved his life from an assignation attempt.

Suleiman allegedly insisted that Mubarak ride on an armored vehicle during a visit to Ethiopia. Bullets were fired on the president’s car and Mubarak escaped death due to the added security Suleiman had recommended.

(Talat el-Maghraby contributed to this article from Cairo, Egypt)