Intellectuals Declare U.S. Ambassador "persona Non
Grata" for His Criticism of Egyptian Media
By Nadia Abou El-Magd
September 23, 2002
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Forty Egyptian leftists have
declared the U.S. ambassador here "persona non grata"
after he accused the Egyptian media of
irresponsibility and distorting the facts about the
Sept. 11 attacks.
A statement criticizing Ambassador David Welch signed
by 34 leftist intellectuals and writers appeared in
several Arab newspapers Sunday. One of the organizers,
newspaper columnist Ahmed Taha el-Nuqr, told The
Associated Press six others had signed after the
statement was sent to the papers.
El-Nuqr, a columnist with the pro-government newspaper
Al-Akhbar, said he and others were "shocked" by an
article by Welch published in Al-Ahram, one of Egypt's
leading pro-government dailies, and posted on the
embassy website Friday. They immediately began putting
together their protest letter, el-Nuqr said.
"If America imagines that it had occupied the whole
universe, it won't be able to occupy and tame free
pens," the petition said. "We demand that the American
government consider its representative in Cairo to be
persona non grata and withdraw him because he
tarnished democracy and stabbed his country's
constitution in the heart."
In his article, Welch called on "responsible media" to
"exercise their editorial judgment."
"Unfortunately, the anniversary has ... brought forth
yet more voices in the media questioning who planned
and committed the attacks, and positing incredible
conspiracy theories without the slightest bit of
evidence to back them up," Welch wrote in an article
titled "Time to get facts right."
Many in the Arab world don't believe that Osama bin
Laden's al-Qaida terror network carried out the Sept.
11 attacks. Speculation the United States or Israel
was behind the attacks to create a reason for
attacking Arabs and Muslims is rampant, despite the
appearance on Arab television stations of bin Laden
and other al-Qaida members claiming responsibility for
"Indeed, other Egyptian intellectuals have come out in
writing accepting the fact of al-Qaida's culpability
for Sept. 11," U.S. Embassy spokesman Philip Frayne
told the AP. "This is not about censorship, this is
about responsibility of editors to the reading
The row underscores increased tension between Egypt
and the United States. Egypt opposes a possible
U.S.-led strike against Iraq, the U.S. policy of
sidelining Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the
U.S.-backed peace plan for neighboring Sudan.
Last month, President Bush told Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak the United States would oppose any
additional aid to Egypt in protest of the jailing of
Egyptian-American human rights advocate Saad Eddin