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ElBaradei attacks 'smear campaign'

Egypt's most prominent democracy advocate has accused President Hosni Mubarak's government of posting Facebook photos of his daughter in swimsuits and at events where alcohol was served in an attempt to discredit him.

Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former UN nuclear chief, was quoted in the independent Al-Dustour newspaper as saying the government is "waging a campaign of sheer lies" by using the photos to portray him and his family as non-believers - a politically damaging accusation in an increasingly conservative muslim country.

The Facebook photos were an unusual personal attack on him and his family.

The more than 30 photos were posted under the title: "Secrets of the ElBaradei family". Some show his daughter in swimsuits at the beach and sitting at events in front of what appeared to be bottles of alcohol.

Drinking is forbidden in Islam and conservative muslims would generally consider a woman appearing publicly in a bathing suit to be immodest.

"This just shows how desperate the forces against change have become by resorting to a smear campaign based on lies and fabrication," Mr ElBaradei told The Associated Press through a spokeswoman.

A spokesman for Mr Mubarak's National Democratic Party said it had no connection to the Facebook campaign, which he called an attempt at "character assassination".

"I think this is a very grave mistake, violating the privacy of others," said Ali Eddin Helal.

Mr ElBaradei has drawn the government's anger with a campaign he started early this year boldly calling for electoral reform and constitutional amendments that would allow a credible candidate to challenge the ruling party in next year's presidential election.

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