Internet revolt star Ghonim chides IMF

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WASHINGTON: The Google executive who became the hero of the Egyptian revolution cropped up at the pinnacle of international finance Friday, chiding the elites for supporting strongman Hosni Mubarak.

"I actually feel like Joe the Plumber," said Wael Ghonim, drawing laughs after his introduction on a panel at the International Monetary Fund headquarters.

The inside-America reference to a plumber whose videotaped questioning of presidential candidate Barack Obama propelled him to national fame was a savvy setup for his participation on the high-level panel on youth and jobs in the Middle East and North Africa.

Dressed in faded Levis, an open-necked striped shirt and casual loafers, Ghonim, 30, filled his billing as "Internet activist" in the roundtable discussion notably featuring IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Ghonim, Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, became an internet star after administering a Facebook page that helped spark the uprising that toppled Mubarak’s regime.

"To me what was happening was a crime, not a mistake," he said.

He branded the international institutions and the "elites" of the world "partners in crime" in supporting Mubarak’s regime.

"A lot of people knew that things were going wrong," he added.

Wearing a wristband with the date January 25, 2011, the first day of protests that swept Mubarak from power, Ghonim said: "We wanted our dignity back."

"Egypt has cancer" and what is needed is investment and entrepreneurship, and jobs that pay a decent wage, he said.

Acknowledging a "radical view," Ghonim welcomed outside expertise and support from the international community but rejected the idea of outsiders telling Egypt how to rebuild its society.

"Let the Egyptians sort out their own problems."

After the discussion, Ghonim was mobbed by audience members who congratulated him and had their pictures taken with him.


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