The Cairo University setting in which U.S. President Barack Obama will make his Middle East speech today is spectacular and will accommodate a highly unusual audience. Israel's ambassador to Egypt, Shalom Cohen, who had been specifically invited by the White House, will be seated not far from Iran's representative and the 11 members of the Egyptian Parliament who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. Also present will be a group of Egyptian artists who oppose normalization with Israel, including film stars Adel Imam and Leila Alawi.
Egyptian sources said Ambassador Cohen was invited by the president of the university, Prof. Hossam Kamel, who told journalists the instruction to invite Cohen came from "on high" and was "impossible to refuse." The White House constructed the guest list together with the director-general of Mubarak's office, and the Egyptian president personally authorized the result.
The Muslim Brotherhood MPs had requested an emergency debate in parliament on the invitation of the Israeli ambassador, and university lecturers threatened to block Cohen from entering the campus. However, the protests were said to have subsided when the Muslim Brotherhood MPs found their names on the guest list as well, along with the name of recently released opposition activist Ayman Nour.
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