U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with top leaders in Egypt, including military leader Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and called on the country’s leadership to ensure a democratic transition.
The secretary of state also met with newly elected President Mohamed Morsi over the weekend.
“Democracy is hard,” Clinton said on Saturday. “We have been at this for more than 236 years, and it requires dialogue and compromise and real politics. So we are encouraged, and we want to be helpful, but we know that it is not for the United States to decide.”
Even though Morsi was elected weeks ago, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which Tantawi leads, still wields considerable power in Egypt. It took over after longtime President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February 2011.
Morsi last week attempted to reinstate the lower house of parliament, which was dissolved by the SCAF at the behest of the high court. The court said elections leading to the creation of the lower house were unconstitutional.
“Elections are just the beginning. It’s not the end of anything,” Clinton said on Sunday. “Now a government must be formed, and a government that will respect the rights of all Egyptians—men and women, Muslim and Christian, wherever they live in the country.”
Clinton called on Tantawi and the SCAF to remain true to their promise that they would hand over power to a civilian government at the end of June.
“We believe strongly that universal rights must be protected. All people deserve dignity. All people deserve their freedom,” she said.
Despite recent controversy, Clinton commended the SCAF for “representing the Egyptian people in the revolution, as compared to what we’re seeing in Syria, which is the military murdering their own people.”
Liberal and Christian politicians as well as public figures protested Clinton’s visit to Egypt, saying the United States is biased toward Egypt’s Islamist parties, namely the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi and a number of parliamentarians are members of the Brotherhood.
Bishop Marcus of the Coptic Orthodox Church told state-run Al-Ahram newspaper that he declined to meet with Clinton to demonstrate “our rejection of U.S. intervention in Egypt’s domestic affairs and the Americans’ strategy of favoring certain Egyptian political currents over others.”
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