Egypt`s Muslim Brotherhood in high-level US talks

The US State Department`s number two was to sit down on Wednesday with Muslim Brotherhood party leaders.

Cairo: The US State Department`s number two was to sit down on Wednesday with Muslim Brotherhood party leaders, as Egypt prepared to wrap up marathon elections that propelled
Islamists to the centre stage of politics.

Washington has been reaching out to the Brotherhood in a
nod to Egypt`s new political reality, with Islamists poised to
dominate the first parliament since a popular uprising ousted
veteran president Hosni Mubarak in February.

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns "will meet
leaders of the (Brotherhood`s) Freedom and Justice Party at
their headquarters in Cairo," FJP spokesman Ahmed Sobea said.

"It will be the highest-level meeting with any official
from the United States," Sobea said.

Burns, who arrived in Cairo yesterday, met with Field
Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the
Armed Forces (SCAF) which took power when Mubarak was ousted.

He is also expected to meet other government officials,
political and business leaders as well as activists.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said before the polls
that the United States had pursued "limited contacts" with the
Brotherhood as Washington was "re-engaging in" a six-year-old
policy in light of Egypt`s political changes.

FJP deputy head Essam al-Erian held talks with Jeffrey
Feltman, US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern
affairs, during a recent visit to Cairo, Sobea said.

Today`s meeting comes as Egyptians voted in the final
phase of staggered polls to elect a lower house of parliament.

Egypt`s two main Islamist parties have scored a crushing
victory in the seats declared so far, reflecting a regional
trend since Arab Spring uprisings overthrew authoritarian
secular regimes.

The FJP has claimed the lead -- securing over 35 per cent
of votes for party lists -- closely followed by Al-Nur party,
which represents the ultra conservative brand of Salafi Islam.
Burns was not expected to meet with representatives of
Al-Nur, a spokesman for the party said.

The powerful Muslim Brotherhood, the country`s best
organised political movement, was widely expected to triumph
in the polls through its party -- the FJP.

But the surge of Al-Nur and the strong visibility of
Salafi movements have raised fears among increasingly
marginalised liberals about civil liberties and religious
freedom.

The SCAF has repeatedly pointed to the elections as proof
of its intention to hand the reins to a civilian government.

PTI

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