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On January 29 Omar Suleiman was appointed Egypt’s vice-president by President Hosni Mubarak in response to days of anti-government protests throughout the country.
General Omar Suleiman was formerly head of the powerful Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS). He was born in 1935 in Qena in South Egypt, known as one of the poorest and most neglected provinces in the country, and rose to national prominence through Egypt’s armed forces. After training at Egypt’s Military Academy in Cairo and the Frunze Military Academy in Moscow and fighting in both the 1967 and 1973 wars, Suleiman was recognized as a distinguished military strategist.
Suleiman was transferred to the field of military intelligence during the mid-1980s, and in 1993 he was promoted to Director of General Intelligence at the height of the state’s violent confrontation with Islamic extremists. Suleiman’s political power extends beyond his role as head of Egypt’s intelligence unit. Beginning in 2000 with the outbreak of the Second Intifada, Suleiman has engaged in high-level (and high-profile) diplomacy, most notably acting as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and as Egypt’s interlocutor between different Palestinian factions, especially Fatah and Hamas. Suleiman has thus built a strong relationship with U.S. government and intelligence officials.
A close associate of President Mubarak, Suleiman is considered by some analysts in Egypt as a potential presidential successor, and he has begun to receive public endorsements across the political spectrum for a presidential bid. However, because active-duty military officers cannot be members of political parties, Suleiman would have to retire from his post in order to run for the presidency, only to face the same constitutionally-enshrined obstacles as many other presidential hopefuls who can only run as independents.