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U.S. diplomat urges Egyptians to hold dialogue


09:06, July 16, 2013

CAIRO, July 15 (Xinhua) -- Visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns on Monday urged all political factions in Egypt to engage in dialogue and to end violence, official news agency MENA reported.

"I was asked by (U.S. President Barack) Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to visit Egypt to clarify U.S. stances," Burns said at a brief news conference at the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

"My message was clear that the United States will continue to commit to democratic success and prosperity in Egypt," said Burns, who is the highest-level diplomat visiting Egypt since July 3 when Islamist-oriented President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the armed forces after massive nationwide protests calling for his removal.

Burns will meet with members of the Egyptian transitional government and of the armed forces, representatives of different political parties and NGOs, as well as activists, religious figures and businessmen.

However, both the ultra-conservative Salafist al-Nour Party and the anti-Morsi "Rebel" Tamarud campaign turned down invitations to meet Burns.

Al-Nour, the second most important Islamic party in Egypt, said it decided so to express the rejection of the U.S. intervention in Egypt's domestic affairs. Meanwhile, Tamarud's founder Mahmoud Badr said "they (the U.S. administration) need to acknowledge the new system and apologize for their support for the Muslim Brotherhood's party and terrorism."

Burns, for his part, said only Egyptians can determine their future, and that he does not come with a U.S. solution or to give lectures.

The United States does not seek to impose a certain model in Egypt but will support certain main principles, he said.

Earlier Monday, Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi met with Burns, who hailed the army's response to the will of the people, state-run Al-Ahram Online reported.

The U.S. administration is keen to ensure a peaceful democratic transition of power with a clear roadmap in the form of elections, Burns said.

But whether Washington views Morsi's overthrow as a coup, a perception that would lead to a halt of U.S. aid, remains unclear.

In a swift reaction to Morsi's ouster, Obama said he was " deeply concerned" by the military move. He later ordered the defense department to review U.S.'s foreign assistance program to Egypt, which is about 1.5 billion U.S. dollars in aid every year.

Obama did not openly label the military procedures as "a coup," but called on Egypt's army to transfer power to a civilian government as soon as possible, urging it to avoid arbitrary arrests of Morsi or his supporters.

In a statement on Friday, Washington called on the Egyptian military and interim leaders to release Morsi, who is reportedly under house arrest.

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