February 5, 2011

U.S. envoy stirs pride in Mainer, sister says

Frank Wisner, assigned to prod Mubarak to quit, is 'a pro,' says Wendy Hazard.

By MATTHEW STONE Kennebec Journal

The retired U.S. diplomat whom the Obama administration chose this week to tell Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that the time has come to step aside has ties to central Maine.

Frank G. Wisner's sister, Wendy Hazard, lives in Belgrade and is an assistant professor of history at the University of Maine at Augusta. Wisner spoke last year at the university.

"He's a pro," Hazard said. "He certainly is a very, very thoughtful, deeply informed person."

Wisner, 72, was U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 1986 to 1991 and developed a close relationship with Mubarak in that time, according to Hazard and news reports.

"He just has many, many friends in Egypt and North Africa," Hazard said. "I was so filled with admiration and glad that they turned to him."

Wisner, who lives in New York, has also been ambassador to Zambia, the Philippines and India in his long career as a diplomat. "He's a really impressive person," Hazard said. "He's been a loyal servant to the government."

Wisner has served on the boards of Enron and AIG.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that the United States send Wisner to Cairo to deliver its message to Mubarak, The New York Times reported.

"I know Mrs. Clinton has great, great confidence in him," Hazard said.

According to news reports, Wisner met with Mubarak on Tuesday and told the 82-year-old Egyptian president that he should publicly declare he wouldn't seek re-election. Wisner also reportedly told Mubarak that he should step aside immediately to make way for a transitional government.

Within 24 hours of meeting with Wisner, Mubarak announced that he wouldn't seek re-election in September, but stopped short of resigning.

Hazard said she last spoke to her older brother a few weeks ago, before large-scale protests broke out calling for Mubarak to step down. She had been unable to contact him by e-mail since he went to Egypt because the country had cut off Internet access until Wednesday.

The U.S. government last called on Wisner in 2005, when the Bush administration chose him to serve as a special representative to international talks about the future of Kosovo, according to Hazard and news reports.

"He's tackled lots and lots of very complex problems," Hazard said.

Wisner and Hazard grew up in Washington, D.C., and Wisner attended Princeton University.


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