Moussa, Amr (1936–)

views updated

Moussa, Amr

Amr Moussa (Amre Moussa, Mousa, Musa) is a former Egyptian foreign minister who has been secretary general of the League of Arab States (Arab League) since 2001.


Moussa was born on 3 October 1936 in Cairo. He received his LL.B. at Cairo University in 1957. After practicing law for one year, he joined the Egyptian foreign service in 1958, eventually serving in several departments, overseas missions, and the Egyptian delegation to the United Nations (UN). From 1974 to 1977, Moussa served as adviser and assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister. He was director of the Department of International Organizations twice, from 1977 to 1981 and 1986 to 1990. In 1990–1991, during the crucial Gulf crisis and subsequent war, Moussa served as Egypt's representative to the UN.

Moussa was appointed foreign minister in 1991, and remained in Egypt's top diplomatic post until his unanimous selection as secretary general by the member states of the Arab League in May 2001.


During his tenure as Egyptian foreign minister, Moussa became famous for his blunt assessments and his sometimes quick temper. He was noted for his sharp criticisms directed at Israeli and American policies in the Middle East. He continued with his characteristic bluntness after becoming Arab League secretary general in 2001. In the midst of the war between Israel and Hizbullah in July 2006, for example, Moussa declared that the Middle East peace process was "dead." When asked to comment about the lavish praise heaped on Israeli prime minister ariel sharon by the Quartet (the United States, Russia, the UN, and the European Union) in the wake of the August 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and a small part of the West Bank, Moussa responded in pithy fashion: "I have described this excessive exaggeration as an absurd thing that detracts from the Quartet's political sobriety" (Moussa, 2005b). Moussa also has been forthright in his assertions that while the Arab League does not want to see Iran develop nuclear weapons, it would be unfair to demand that Iran give up its nuclear program while not asking the same of Israel, which while never having admitted as much is believed to possess more than two hundred nuclear weapons.

Moussa also did much to change and revitalize the Arab League. Under his leadership, the league endorsed a 2002 Saudi peace plan for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. He also vowed to clear out the league's bureaucracy and generally make it a more relevant and energetic body instead of, as some have called it, a retirement club for aged Arab foreign ministers. Under his leadership the league established an Arab free-trade zone in January 2005, and moved from making decisions by consensus to voting on them.


Moussa's forthright attitudes and attempts over the years, particularly his criticism of Israel and the United States—a key Egyptian ally—have earned him many admirers in the Arab world. Nowhere is this felt more than in his native Egypt. Popular Egyptian singer Sha'aban Abd al-Rahim released a hit song that includes the lyrics, "I hate Israel, and I love Amr Moussa." Beyond that, there even is a Web site ( that was created to thank him and Arab foreign ministers for Moussa's 15 July 2006 statement that the Arab-Israeli peace process is dead. In fact, some have speculated that Egyptian president husni mubarak moved him out of the foreign minister's position in 2001 precisely because his growing popularity was seen as a threat to Mubarak's regime. Moussa's name was also floated as a possible presidential candidate after Mubarak announced that there would be multiparty elections in the future.


Amr Moussa is still writing his own legacy. But it is clear that he will be seen as the diplomatic incarnation of the rising Arab frustration with the policies of Israel and the United States in the Middle East.


Name: Amr Moussa (Amre Moussa, Mousa, Musa)

Birth: 1936, Cairo, Egypt

Family: Married; two children

Nationality: Egyptian

Education: Cairo University, 1957, LL.B.


  • 1958: Enters Egyptian foreign service
  • 1967: Named Egyptian ambassador to India
  • 1974: Adviser and assistant to foreign minister
  • 1977: Director, Foreign Ministry Department of International Organizations
  • 1990: Serves as Egyptian representative, United Nations
  • 1991: Becomes foreign minister
  • 2001: Chosen secretary general, Arab League


Moussa, Amr. Interview with Amr Moussa. "An Offer That Contains the Issues for Peace with Israel." Der Spiegel (13 April 2005a). Available from

――――――. "Arab League Chief Amr Mousa: What is the Quartet Thanking Ariel Sharon For?" Interview by Ghida Fakhri. Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London). (4 October 2005b). Translated by Occupation Magazine. Available from

                                    Michael R. Fischbach