Senior U.S. diplomat Burns visits Egypt for talks

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 14, 2013 6:31 PM
Senior U.S. diplomat Burns visits Egypt for talks

By Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top U.S. diplomat flew to Egypt on Sunday to urge its interim government, military and politicians to move toward an elected civilian government after the army coup that ousted President Mohamed Mursi.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns intends to hold talks with those groups as well as civil society and the business community, the State Department said without clarifying whether he would meet Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

"The goal of his trip is to engage with and hear directly from interim Egyptian officials and civil society as part of our ongoing efforts to see Egypt transition to an inclusive, pluralistic, democratically elected civilian government," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

The Egyptian military ousted Mursi on July 3 arguing that they had a popular mandate following demonstrations by millions of Egyptians who have protested against political upheaval and economic stagnation under Brotherhood rule.

While seeking to appear neutral, the United States has carefully avoided criticizing the military's actions, has not called for Mursi's reinstatement and has criticized his rule as undemocratic.

Psaki said Burns would stress U.S. "support for an inclusive democratic process where all political streams and sectors of society are represented, the need to transition to a democratically elected government as soon as possible, and the immediate need for all political leaders to work to prevent violence and incitement."

Psaki declined to say whether Burns hoped to meet with the Brotherhood and it remained an open question how eager members of the Islamist movement might be to see the U.S. diplomat, given Washington's apparent acquiescence in the coup against Mursi.

Mursi has been held incommunicado since the army removed him from office. The authorities have not charged him with a crime but said they were investigating complaints against him over spying, inciting violence and wrecking the economy.

The political crisis has left the United States scrambling to reconcile its general opposition to military coups with its desire to see stability maintained in the Arab world's most populous nation.

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Egypt is particularly important to the United States because of its peace treaty with Israel and its control of the Suez Canal, a vital waterway for the U.S. military to project force in the Middle East.

Mursi's removal after a year in office marked another twist in the turmoil that has gripped Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, an authoritarian who was a U.S. ally for three decades.

In dispatching Burns to Cairo, the United States is sending a top diplomat who speaks Arabic, has written a book on economic aid and U.S. policy toward Egypt and has extensive experience in the Arab world, including as the U.S. ambassador to Jordan.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Christopher Wilson)