Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood welcomes idea of U.S. contacts
Senior official says U.S. decided to resume formal contacts with Brotherhood in a step that reflects its growing political weight but is almost certain to upset Israel.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood welcomes any formal contacts with the United States as a way to clarify its vision but no such contacts have yet been made, a spokesman for the Islamist group said on Thursday.
A senior U.S. official said on Wednesday that the United States had decided to resume formal contacts with the Brotherhood, a step that reflects its growing political weight but is almost certain to upset Israel and its U.S. backers.
"We welcome such relationships with everyone because those relations will lead to clarifying our vision. But it won't include or be based on any intervention in the internal affairs of the country," spokesman Mohamed Saad el-Katatni told Reuters.
"Until now no contacts have been made with the group or the party," said Katatni, who is also secretary-general of its new Freedom and Justice party. "This relationship will clarify our general views and our opinion about different issues."
Under the previous policy, U.S. diplomats were allowed to deal with Brotherhood members of parliament who had won seats as independents -- a diplomatic fiction that allowed them to keep lines of communication open.
Former U.S. officials and analysts said the Obama administration had little choice but to engage the Brotherhood directly, given its political prominence after the February 11 downfall of former President Hosni Mubarak.
"The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing," a senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters in Washington.
"It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are competing for parliament or the presidency."
The Brotherhood long ago renounced violence as a means to achieve political change in Egypt, and is not regarded by Washington as a foreign terrorist organization.
But other sympathetic groups, such as Hamas, which identifies the Brotherhood as its spiritual guide, have not renounced violence against the state of Israel.
Egypt's parliamentary elections are scheduled for September and its military rulers have promised to hold a presidential vote by the end of the year.