Senior US diplomat to meet Egypt Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders
CAIRO - The US State Department's number two was to meet Wednesday with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood's party after it claimed a crushing victory in the first parliamentary polls since a popular uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak.
William Burns "will meet leaders of the 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.
The US deputy secretary of state arrived in Cairo from Turkey late on Tuesday for talks with government officials, political and business leaders and activists.
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.
Egypt's Islamists are poised to dominate the next lower house of parliament, with the two main parties clinching around 65 percent of votes for party lists.
The FJP has claimed the lead -- securing over 35 percent of votes for party lists -- closely followed by Al-Nur party, which represents the ultra conservative brand of Salafi Islam.
Rival liberal and leftist parties have fared badly in the election which kicked off on November 28 and is due to end later this month.
The United States is reaching out to the Brotherhood in a nod to Egypt's new political reality, but has indicated concerns linger about the group's attitude toward Egypt's Christian minority, women and the peace treaty with Israel.
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.
Burns was also expected to discuss a major US dispute with Egypt over Cairo's crackdown on non-government organisations (NGOs), including US election monitoring groups.
Late last month Egyptian prosecutors backed by police special forces stormed 17 offices of local and international NGOs, confiscating computers and documents as part of a probe into allegations of illegal funding from abroad.
The most populous Arab country, Egypt has been the lynchpin of US policy in the Middle East since 1979 when it became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel.