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Omar Suleiman

Political Figure

Born: 2 July 1936
Birthplace: Qena, Egypt
Best known as: The spy chief who was Egypt's vice president for two weeks in 2011
Omar Mahmoud Suleiman was Egypt's director of intelligence services in early 2011 when he was named vice president as part of President Hosni Mubarak's failed attempt to quell popular protests against the government. Vice President Omar Suleiman's "term" lasted all of two weeks, from the time Mubarak transferred powers to him until Suleiman announced Mubarak's decision to step down and hand over power to a military council. Before being Egypt's chief spy master, Suleiman was a military man. He left home for Cairo in 1954 to attend military school, and after further training in military sciences he joined Egypt's army. There he rose through the ranks and, after years as an operations officer, moved to military intelligence in the 1980s. Suleiman became a deputy director in 1986, a position that brought him into close contact with President Mubarak. By 1993 Omar Suleiman was the director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS), and he became the most important foreign policy player in Mubarak's government. Behind the scenes, Suleiman worked closely with the United States, Britain and Israel to thwart threats from Islamist extremists during the 1990s, and he is said to have been the driving force in a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Suleiman has been credited with suppressing anti-Western insurgencies, but he's also been criticized for his alleged complicity in the torture of political prisoners. He emerged as a more public politician in the 2000s, and was seen by many as a possible successor to the aging Mubarak. After weeks of mass protests in Cairo in 2011, President Mubarak offered a sop to protesters by saying he would transfer power to newly-named Vice President Suleiman on 29 January 2011. (Suleiman was Egypt's first vice president since Mubarak took office in 1981.) The Egyptian public would have none of it. They kept protesting until Mubarak stepped down completely, a move step announced by Vice President Suleiman on 11 February 2011. Power was assumed by a military council, a group which includes Omar Suleiman.

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