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Egypt's ambassador to U.S. says he hasn't heard from Cairo

By the CNN Wires Staff
  • Sameh Shoukry says he didn't get "new ... communications" Saturday from Egyptian officials
  • He also didn't talk Saturday with U.S. officials, after "minute-by-minute" conversations on Friday
  • The career diplomat's son is part of a "neighborhood watch" in Egypt, protecting property
  • He says the military must have an important say in Egypt's new government

(CNN) -- Egypt's ambassador to the United States said that, after "minute-by-minute" conversations with members of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration on Friday, there have been no such communications Saturday -- nor has he heard from his own government in Cairo.

"I have not received any direction communications (with U.S. officials), and I have no instructions to conduct any (with them)," Sameh Shoukry told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. He also noted "there have not been any new instructions or communications" Saturday with officials in Egypt.

Still, the ambassador claimed that Ahmed Aboul Gheit remains Egypt's foreign affairs minister, even though he has yet to return from an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Shoukry, a career diplomat who also spent four years years as information secretary for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said he has been in touch with family members back in Egypt, including his younger son who joined a "neighborhood watch" -- banding together with neighbors and others to protect private property, in the absence of any viable, official police presence.

"There is, of course, a sense of crisis," he said. "They are all concerned about their country."

Before assuming his current post in 2008, Shoukry spent three years as Egypt's ambassador to the United Nations. Previously, the lawyer and father of two sons was ambassador to Austria, a director of the foreign affairs' ministries cabinet and a diplomat in embassies in England and Argentina, besides his position between 1995 and 1999 directly under Mubarak.

Shoukry said the demonstrations have shown that citizens "have aspirations" to alter Egypt's economic, social and political course. He said he believes Mubarak's government recognizes this much, adding that he's certain that there will be "greater expediency in (instituting) reforms."

He acknowledged a clear "lack of a police presence," while playing up the military's presence on Egyptian streets -- including how favorably it is viewed in Egyptian society and how well the troops have been received by demonstrators.

Responding to a query that Mubarak couldn't remain in power without the military's assent, Shoukry again stressed the armed forces' importance in Egyptian society and politics, calling it the "safety valve for Egypt."

"It is necessary, of course, for such an important institution to have a role in the formulation of Egypt," he said.