Tony Blair denies he signed on as Egyptian president's adviser
Guardian reports former British prime minister agrees to advise Egypt's Sissi on 'economic reform,' drawing accusations of blurring line between private interests and position as Mideast peace envoy.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair denied a Guardian report that he has signed on as an adviser to Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, as part of a United Arab Emirates program to prop up Egypt's ailing economy.
Blair's spokesperson told Haaretz that the story is "nonsense," and that Blair has only said that it is important for the region that Egypt succeeds in reforming itself.
The Guardian reported on Wednesday that Blair has agreed to advise Egypt's Sissi on "economic reform," even as he was criticized for blurring the line between his public position as Middle East peace envoy and his private business interests.
The former prime minister has been a vocal supporter of Sissi's military coup which ousted President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Bortherhood, terming it "the absolutely necessary rescue of a nation," the Guardian reported.
The UAE, which funds the program Blair has now joined, supports Sissi against the Muslim Brotherhood as part of its struggle against political Islam. According to the Guardian, the UAE and Saudi Arabia pressured British Prime Minister David Cameron to probe the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain earlier in 2014.
Blair's new attachment to the Sissi regime, which according to the Guardian, has killed more than 2,500 protestors and jailed over 20,000 in the past year, has come under fire from a former close political associate.
"For him, it (the advisory role) combines both an existential battle against Islamism and mouth-watering business opportunities in return for the kind of persuasive advocacy he provided George Bush over Iraq," the former associate told the Guardian.
"It's a very lucrative business model," the associate said, "but he shouldn't be doing it. He's putting himself in hock to a regime that imprisons journalists. He's digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself and everyone associated with him."
Last week a group of former British diplomats and political figures wrote an open letter calling for Blair's resignation from his role as the Special Envoy of the Middle East Quartet, citing, among other reasons, his "blurring the lines between his public position as envoy" and his private business dealings in the region.
In contrast to what Blair's spokesperson told Haaretz, the Guardian reported a spokesperson did not deny Blair is advising Sissi, but only that he is not looking at any business opportunities in Egypt. "He is giving advice, he will have meetings, that's all," she told the Guardian. According to her, there is no personal gain involved, and Blair and his organizations will not make money out of the advisory position.
However, the Guardian noted that the UAE program promises "huge business opportunities" to those involved. According to the report, Blair's earnings from various business dealings and consultancies reportedly exceeded $34 million last year.
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