London: Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman was long seen by Israel as the preferred candidate to succeed President Hosni Mubarak, secret US diplomatic cables published on Monday suggested.
According to an August 2008 cable released by WikiLeaks and published by the Daily Telegraph newspaper on its website, a senior adviser from the Israeli Ministry of Defense told US diplomats in Tel Aviv that the Israelis believe Suleiman would likely serve as "at least an interim president if Mubarak dies or is incapacitated."
A US diplomat who classified the cable, Luis Moreno, wrote that although he deferred to the Embassy in Cairo for Egyptian succession scenario analysis, "there is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of" Suleiman.
The cable quoted the adviser to Israel's defense ministry, David Hacham, as saying an Israeli delegation led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak was "shocked by Mubarak's aged appearance and slurred speech," when it met him in Egypt. "Hacham was full of praise for Soliman, however," it said. Suleiman was spelled Soliman in some of the leaked cables.
Hacham added that he sometimes spoke to Suleiman's deputy several times a day via a "hotline," according to the cable.
On Sunday, Suleiman met several major opposition groups, including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, for the first time and offered new concessions including freedom of the press and the release of those detained during the country's recent violent protests.