Ahmed Maher: Former Egyptian foreign minister

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The Independent Online

Ahmed Maher, who died on 27 September aged 75, was a former Egyptian foreign minister who served as the country's leading diplomat between 2001 and 2004.

Generally considered an outsider in Egyptian politics, the career diplomat, who was ambassador to Moscow and Washington in the 1990s, succeeded Amr Mussa as Foreign Minister after Mussa was appointed head of the Arab League. Maher's work as Foreign Minister was dominated by the 9/11 attacks on the United States, the US-led invasion of Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was replaced in 2004 by Egypt's current foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.

The previous year, during a rare visit to Israel as part of Egyptian efforts to relaunch the peace process, Maher was attacked by Palestinian activists in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem. The Palestinians booed and hurled shoes at him, in protest at Egypt's perceived policy of appeasement towards Israel.

Born in Cairo on 14 September, 1935, Maher came from a family of diplomats and politicians. After studying law at Cairo University, he entered the foreign ministry, serving as a junior diplomat in Congo, France and Switzerland in the 1960s. He rose rapidly through the ranks, and was part of the Camp David talks in 1978, where he was assigned to coordinate efforts with the US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He also attended the 1988 talks that delivered Taba back to Egyptian control after Israel occupied the town in 1967.

Later, as Foreign Minister, Maher was unafraid to provoke controversy. He criticised American calls to replace Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein, maintaining that the choice of head of state was a matter for the countries concerned. And before the US-led invasion of Iraq, he said military confrontation was the last thing the region needed, warning that economies would be hit and that an atmosphere of violence would emerge.