U.S. official snubbed in Egypt visit

July 15, 2013

Senior U.S. official visits Egypt for first time since Mursi’s removal, report says Germany knew of U.S. spying, and Spanish PM embroiled in financing scandal. Today is Monday, July 15, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Egypt’s interim President Adli Mansour (R) speaks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo, July 15, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Burns gets burned. A senior U.S. official is visiting Cairo today for the first time since President Mohamed Mursi’s ouster, arriving in a country where both Islamists and their opponents are livid over U.S. involvement in Egypt:

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns arrived in a divided capital where both sides are furious at the United States, the superpower which supports Egypt with $1.5 billion in annual aid, mostly for the army that deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi two weeks ago…. Washington, never comfortable with the rise of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, has so far refused to say whether it views Mursi’s removal as a coup, which would require it to halt aid. The State Department said Burns would meet “civil society groups” as well as government officials, but the Islamist Nour Party and the Tamarud anti-Mursi protest movement both said they had turned down invitations to meet Burns.

Thousands of pro-Mursi protesters rallied in Cairo today, demanding his reinstatement. Many have held vigil for their deposed leader since his removal. Meanwhile, anti-government protesters called for a demonstration but have seen dwindling numbers at their rallies. Overall, protests have been largely peaceful since 92 people were killed in the days immediately after Mursi was forced out of office. Egypt’s interim prime minister started to fill his cabinet on Sunday, beginning the transition intended to restore civilian rule according to an army-backed “road map.” Unrest continues in Egypt’s lawless North Sinai province, where a suspected militant attack killed 3 and wounded 17 this morning.

A general view of the large former monitoring base of the U.S. intelligence organization National Security Agency (NSA) in Bad Aibling, south of Munich, June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

In cahoots with the NSA? A German newspaper reported that Germany’s foreign intelligence agency not only knew about U.S. spying on its citizens for years, but had used the information gathered:

Questions over how much the German government and its own security agencies knew about U.S. surveillance have touched a raw nerve in Germany, given historical memories of spying on citizens by former communist East Germany and the Nazi regime. Citing U.S. government sources, Bild said the BND had asked the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) for the email and telephone records of German citizens kidnapped in Yemen or Afghanistan to help ascertain their whereabouts and contacts.

Merkel is eager to disassociate herself from the matter during her reelection campaign. She said last week that Germany’s cooperation with U.S. intelligence was legal, but added that “Cold War” spying methods would be unacceptable.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gestures during a joint news conference with his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk (not pictured) at Moncloa Palace in Madrid, July 15, 2013. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Scorched by scandal. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has refused to budge despite pressure to step down over alleged illegal donations. Rajoy has been in the hot seat since January over allegations that he ran a secret slush fund, but pressure increased after damning testimony from his disgraced ex-treasurer:

The pressure mounted on Rajoy as the former treasurer of his People’s Party gave new testimony before a judge looking into the affair, saying he handed envelopes of cash to Rajoy and other party leaders in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Rajoy has so far limited the impact of the scandal, which involves alleged illegal donations by construction magnates that were supposedly distributed as cash payments to party leaders in return for juicy contracts.

Rajoy, who is working to jump-start Spain’s economy, said today that he will fulfill his mandate and won’t let the scandal affect his reform plans.

Nota Bene: Assad’s forces push into rebel-held district of Damascus in stepped-up effort to secure the capital.


London falling – Reuters editor Hugo Dixon explains why London would suffer if Britain left the EU. (Reuters)

Full stop – India sends its last telegram. (Voice of America)

Tree terminator – A deadly disease is killing oaks in the UK. (BBC)

Toxic stench – Bangladesh’s pollution oppresses the senses. (The New York Times)

Putin palaces – Putin has built hidden luxury apartments for his allies. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

From the File:

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