On April 5, U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer met a Brotherhood
leader twice. One meeting was at Egypt's parliament, where the Brotherhood
controls about 20 percent of the 454 seats, and the other was at the
residence of the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Francis Ricciardone.
Western diplomats and Brotherhood sources said American officials have
been meeting members of the Islamic opposition in Alexandria and Cairo. They
said the meetings, which focused on the positions of the Brotherhood and the
future of Egypt, have usually taken place at the U.S. embassy, consulate or
in the home of the American ambassador, Middle East Newsline reported.
"The Brotherhood plays a major role in Egypt's political landscape and
cannot be ignored," a Western diplomat said. "On the other hand, these talks
have to be handled delicately so as not to anger the government."
"It's our diplomatic practice around the world to meet with
parliamentarians, be they members of political parties or independents,"
U.S. embassy spokesman John Berry said.
[On Monday, officials said an Egyptian security court extended its
remand of five Brotherhood leaders. One of the detainees was identified as
Hassan Malik, regarded as a key financier of the Islamic opposition
The diplomats said U.S. officials and representatives have exploited a
range of opportunities to meet Brotherhood members. They cited U.S. embassy
receptions for members of the Egyptian parliament as well as with the
Brotherhood spokesman Hamdi Hassan said Hoyer met the chairman of the
Brotherhood caucus in parliament, Mohammed Saad Katatni. Hassan said Hoyer
and Katatni discussed the Brotherhood vision of Egypt and the Middle East as
well as the opposition movement in the country.
"The Brotherhood not only has reservations on dialogue with the
Americans, but rejects the unfair American policy in the region," the
Brotherhood's website, in reporting the meetings, said.
Diplomats said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has refused to
meet Brotherhood leaders during her visits to Egypt. But they said Ms. Rice
has allowed U.S. diplomats to do so.
"I think the idea is to present a somewhat balanced policy," the
diplomat said. "On one hand, the United States has hardly protested the
Egyptian regime crackdown on the Brotherhood and the rest of the opposition.
On the other hand, it's clear that the State Department wants to stress
that the Brotherhood is a player."