Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood welcomes idea of US contacts


Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood says that it welcomes formal contacts with the United States as a way to clarify its institutional vision. But no such contacts have yet been made, a spokesman for the Islamist group said on Thursday.

A senior US 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 US 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,” a spokesman for the Brotherhood, Mohamed Saad el-Katatni, told Reuters.

“Until now no contacts have been made with the group or the party,” said Mr. Katatni, who is also secretary general of the Brotherhood’s new Freedom and Justice party. “This relationship will clarify our general views and our opinion about different issues.”

Under the previous policy, US diplomats were allowed to deal with Brotherhood members of parliament who had won seats as independents − a diplomatic strategy that allowed them to keep lines of communication open.

Former US 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 President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

“The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing,” a senior US 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.

Asked about the resumption of formal contacts with the Brotherhood, a US official in the region said, “This has been in the works for some time.”

The official added that visiting members of the US Congress had met Brotherhood officials, and US diplomats had met members informally at events where the Brotherhood and others were present.