U.S. President Barack Obama met with members of Egypt's Islamist opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, earlier this year, according to a report in Thursday editions of the Egyptian daily newspaper Almasry Alyoum.
The newspaper reported that Obama met the group's members, who reside in the U.S. and Europe, in Washington two months ago.
According to the report, the members requested that news of the meeting not be publicized. They expressed to Obama their support for democracy and the war on terror.
The newspaper also reported that the members communicated to Obama their position that the Muslim Brotherhood would abide by all agreements Egypt has signed with foreign countries.
Obama landed in Cairo on Thursday to deliver a conciliatory speech as part of his outreach to the Arab and Muslim world.
The Muslim Brotherhood is considered a Sunni-dominated fundamentalist Islamic organization that has spawned numerous factions across the Arab world that have engaged in terrorist activity, including the Palestinian rejectionist group Hamas.
It is also the main opposition bloc to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose regime is viewed favorably in the West due to its adherence to the thirty-year-old peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
The Cairo University setting in which Obama will make his Middle East speech is spectacular and will accommodate a highly unusual audience.
Israel's ambassador to Egypt, Shalom Cohen, who had been specifically invited by the White House, will be seated not far from Iran's representative and the 11 members of the Egyptian Parliament who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Also present will be a group of Egyptian artists who oppose normalization with Israel, including film stars Adel Imam and Leila Alawi.
Just hours before the speech, the hall in which Obama will speak was nearly filled to capacity.
Egyptian sources said Ambassador Cohen was invited by the president of the university, Prof. Hossam Kamel, who told journalists the instruction to invite Cohen came from "on high" and was "impossible to refuse." The White House constructed the guest list together with the director-general of Mubarak's office, and the Egyptian president personally authorized the result.
The Muslim Brotherhood MPs had requested an emergency debate in parliament on the invitation of the Israeli ambassador, and university lecturers threatened to block Cohen from entering the campus. However, the protests were said to have subsided when the Muslim Brotherhood MPs found their names on the guest list as well, along with the name of recently released opposition activist Ayman Nour.
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