Top U.S. diplomat rebuffed by Morsi opposition

  • Article by: Liz Sly and Abigail Hauslohner
  • Washington Post
  • July 15, 2013 - 10:31 PM

– A top U.S. diplomat was rebuffed Monday by representatives of the group that led the popular uprising against Egypt’s first democratically elected president and by the Islamist party that could benefit from the ouster, underscoring the depth of anti-American sentiment among segments of Egyptian society.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, the highest-level U.S. official to visit Cairo since President Mohammed Morsi was removed by the military July 3, met Monday with the army chief and Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, and with members of the interim government appointed to run Egypt until new elections are held.

But the Tamarod (rebel) movement that instigated the demonstrations against Morsi declined an invitation to attend a roundtable discussion with Burns and U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson at a Cairo hotel. It accused the United States of supporting Israel, working against the interests of Arabs and backing Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood organization, according to a statement on the group’s website.

“I would like to ask them, what business of yours is Egypt?” Mohammed Badr, one of Tamarod’s co-founders, asked in a posting on his Facebook page.

Without giving a reason, the Salafist Nour party also refused to meet with Burns, Egyptian media reported. The Middle East News Agency quoted an unnamed party member as saying it rejected “American interference in Egyptian affairs.”

The Salafists joined the secularist Tamarod movement’s calls for Morsi to step down, and both parties have accused the United States of backing the Muslim Brotherhood against its opponents during Morsi’s yearlong tenure.

But the refusal of the United States to label Morsi’s ouster a coup has also offended the Brotherhood, which has accused Washington of complicity in his downfall.

Burns’ visit came as tensions mounted on the streets of the Cairo. Late Monday, Reuters news service reported that security forces had fired tear gas in Cairo, following scuffles between Morsi supporters and others.

Speaking to reporters at the U.S. Embassy earlier Monday, Burns signaled Washington’s readiness to stand with Egypt’s new interim leaders, even as an uncomfortable debate continues on Capitol Hill over whether to label the military’s ouster of Morsi a coup. Burns called the country’s transition “a second chance” to achieve the democratic ideals of the country’s 2011 uprising.

His language seemed to underscore a shift by the Obama administration in the past two weeks, from warning against the movement to unseat a democratically elected president to throwing its weight behind the backers of Egypt’s coup.

“The United States is firmly committed to helping Egypt succeed in this second chance to realize the promise of the revolution,” Burns said. “I am not naive. I know that many Egyptians have doubts about the United States, and I know that there will be nothing neat or easy about the road ahead.”

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