Clinton cautiously welcomes Brotherhood talks

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cautiously welcomed Sunday the Muslim Brotherhood's involvement in political dialogue in Egypt, saying Washington would "wait and see" how talks develop.

"Today we learned the Muslim Brotherhood decided to participate, which suggests they at least are now involved in the dialogue that we have encouraged," Clinton told National Public Radio (NPR) from Germany.

"We're going to wait and see how this develops, but we've been very clear about what we expect."

Vice President Omar Suleiman met on Sunday with opposition groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, a well-organised Islamist movement that has long been officially banned from Egyptian politics, the official MENA news agency said.

The talks are aimed at discussing democratic reforms leading to elections to replace President Hosni Mubarak after almost two weeks of mass protests against the 82-year-old's rule.

Some Western observers have expressed concern the Brotherhood could sweep to power and institute an Islamist regime that would be no more democratic and might break Egypt's close alliance with Washington.

There are also worries, particularly in Israel, that under the Brotherhood Egypt could adopt a much more hostile stance towards the Jewish state, even tearing up their 1979 peace treaty, signed after four wars.

Mubarak has been a key diplomatic figure in regional diplomacy in his three decades in power, mediating between the Israelis and the rest of the Arab world, and the Palestinians in particular.

"The Egyptian people are looking for an orderly transition that can lead to free and fair elections. That is what the United States has consistently supported," Clinton said in Munich.

"The people themselves, and leaders of various groups... will ultimately determine if it is or not meeting their needs."

She added: "I want to make very clear we have set forth the principles we support. We are adamant about no violence.

"We want to see peaceful protests that are, so far anyway, embodying the aspirations that are in our view very legitimate.

"And we want to see an orderly, expeditious transition."

Nathan Brown, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said the United States had "real concerns" about Egypt's future direction under the Brotherhood, particularly in relation to Israel.

"They have supported violent resistance in Iraq, they support (Palestinian Islamist group) Hamas, they've made clear they don't support the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty," Brown told AFP.

But he said that Washington could be mollified with a statement from the Brotherhood that any future government would honour Egypt's international obligations.

"We (the US) don't really like the Brotherhood, we're kind of a little bit concerned about them but they're not a red line," Brown said.

© 2011 AFP

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