Senior US diplomat affirms Washington backs ‘democratic process’ in Egypt

Deputy secretary of state William Burns dismisses claims US is supporting any one side while on high-level visit to Egypt

A senior US diplomat has dismissed accusations Washington backs any one side in Egypt, saying the administration supports a balanced and inclusive democratic process.

Deputy secretary of state William Burns is making the highest level visit to Egypt by an American official since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown by the military on 3 July following days of mass protests.

Burns held talks Monday with Egypt’s interim leaders and the head of the military.

Police and protesters clashed in central Cairo early on Tuesday after fights broke out between supporters of Morsi and locals angered when they tried to block major thoroughfares crossing the river Nile.

The Mena state news agency said at least 22 people were injured in the violence, which began just after 9pm on Monday and lasted into the early hours of Tuesday. The clashes were smaller and more localised than the earlier deadly unrest since Mursi was deposed by the military on 3 July and most of Cairo was unaffected.

Washington has been sharply criticized by both Morsi’s supporters and opponents for what each side perceives as support for their rival’s position.

Burns told reporters Washington backs those siding with the aspirations of Egyptians who went out during the 2011 uprising against longtime autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak.

As part of a two-day visit, Burns met the military-backed administration led by interim President Adly Mansour and Prime Minister-designate Hazem el-Beblawi, as well as army chief and defence minister General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.

There was no immediate word on the discussions with the interim civilian leaders. But the military said in a statement posted on the army spokesman’s Facebook page that Burns and Sisi discussed “the recent political developments in Egypt … and ways to reinforce co-operation” between the two countries.

Burns, the second most senior American diplomat, is also expected to meet with civil society groups and business leaders during his trip.

Ahead of the visit, the US state department said Burns would stress in his talks in Cairo US support for the Egyptian people and an inclusive democratic process in which all political groups could participate.

A Muslim Brotherhood official said the group did not have a meeting scheduled with Burns. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds