CAIRO: There is no American pressure on Egypt, said Francis Ricciardone US ambassador to Egypt.
In an interview on the popular TV show, El Nas we Ana (The People and I) hosted by Hussein Fahmy, the ambassador said he only hears about this type of talk.
There is no such thing as a country controlling another these days, he said.
Dressed in semi formal attire and speaking fluent colloquial Arabic marked with an accent, Ricciardone spoke of his love of the land of the Pharaohs.
A documentary showed the ambassador as he walked down the streets of Cairo with no bodyguards, in a casual dress code – or semi formal at best – eating in popular restaurants and dancing in a concert.
The question is, is the ambassador trying to change the already-tarnished image of the US in the Egyptian streets? Most probably.
The interview mainly humanized the ambassador, detaching him from the negative connotation that is regularly associated with the US.
Besides talking about culture and other non-political issues, the ambassador also talked about his family, recalling his daughter s wedding.
While watching the interview, a family that poses itself as group of patriots born in the Nasser era gave mixed reactions. While one admired the ambassador s simplicity and approachable attitude, another angrily ridiculed his statement that denied interference in other country s affairs.
Towards the end of the interview, Fahmy asked him how he feels when some papers describe him as Napoleon Bonaparte or the Consul General – the title given to the man representing Britain during its occupation of Egypt.
There is no such thing as Napoleon or Consul General these days, the ambassador answered.
Egypt is independent . It controls its own future, he added.
Last week, the Egyptian foreign ministry criticized American condemnation of the decision to imprison four newspaper editors.
The White House expressed “deep concern over the crackdown even as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was having dinner with Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in New York.
The White House Press Secretary Dana Perino had said Monday that “these latest decisions appear to contradict the Egyptian government s stated commitment to expand democratic rights.
“Journalists and NGOs in Egypt and elsewhere should be permitted to carry out their peaceful work in a hospitable environment free from fear of harassment, reprisal, intimidation and discrimination, she added.
A foreign ministry statement condemning the US criticism said that “the statement issued by the White House spokesperson over press freedom and civil society is interference in our domestic affairs that is unacceptable to Egypt.
Fending off accusations of American intervention in Egyptian local affairs, the ambassador told Fahmy, Any pressure comes from within the country itself, from the Egyptians themselves.
Noting the role of media in eliminating extremism, wars and misunderstandings, the ambassador said he is optimistic about Egypt s future.