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Rice to meet some Egypt reformers, not US critics

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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will on Monday meet Egyptian reformers who welcome Washington's calls for Cairo to reform and will tell her to boost pressure for more political freedoms. But prominent opposition groups which also want political reform but reject U.S. involvement have not been invited to meet Rice during her official visit to Egypt.

CAIRO, June 19 - U.S.

Egypt Election Daily News

The banned Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group widely seen as the biggest opposition force, said it had not been asked to attend the meeting. It and the opposition Nasserite Party criticised the gathering as U.S. meddling in Egypt's affairs.

Rice will also meet President Hosni Mubarak -- a U.S. ally who Washington says should lead the Middle East towards democracy with free and fair presidential elections this year.

"(Washington) must continue supporting democratisation of the country. They must be more forceful in this," said Osama el-Ghazali Harb, a liberal writer who will meet Rice.

"I hope that this will be a permanent strategy, not temporary. But we must depend mainly on our own efforts," said Harb, a member of the ruling party who criticised government-led reforms this year allowing the presidential elections.

Harb and opposition groups say restrictions on who can stand in the election mean a real multi-candidate vote is impossible. Rice last week said the change was an important first step but more needed to be done.


"The message is to encourage the Bush administration to continue to have an even-handed approach when dealing with Egypt," said Hisham Kassem, a human rights activist and publisher who will also meet Rice.

"I will encourage this approach -- where they don't give full support to authoritarian regimes," he said.

"And if they are going to support regimes like Mubarak's, there have to be certain safeguards for people outside his regime to operate freely," he said.

Some diplomats and analysts believe the U.S. approach to political change in Egypt has shifted recently in favour of those who advocate caution to keep out of power Islamists who oppose U.S. policy in the Middle East.

The Muslim Brotherhood is suspicious of U.S. motives in talking about democracy in the Arab world.

"We do not consider the American administration to be a charitable society. It has its own agenda and interests," deputy Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Habib told Reuters.

Other opposition groups also doubt U.S. intentions.

"The American government wants to deal with clients. We are not clients and never will be," said Dia el-Din Dawoud, head of the Nasserite Party.

The liberal Ghad Party led by Ayman Nour said it had no problem with the idea of meeting Rice, but the U.S. embassy had yet to invite him to the meeting.

By Tom Perry, (Reuters)

Created by keza
Last modified 2005-07-16 08:59 AM

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