A top U.S. Democratic congressman met a leader of Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak's most powerful rival, Muslim Brotherhood, U.S. officials and the group said Saturday.
Visiting House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer met with the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's parliamentary bloc, Mohammed Saad el-Katatni, twice on Thursday — once at parliament and then at the home of the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Brotherhood spokesman Hamdi Hassan said.
U.S. Embassy spokesman John Berry would only confirm that Hoyer, who represents Maryland, met with el-Katatni at U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone's home at a reception with other politicians and parliament members.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has refused in the past to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition group.
But Berry said U.S. government policy does not bar meetings with the Brotherhood's members of parliament and Hoyer's talks with el-Katatni were not a change in U.S. policy toward the group.
"It's our diplomatic practice around the world to meet with parliamentarians, be they members of political parties or independents," Berry said.
The State Department and the White House had no comment Saturday on Hoyer's meetings with the group.
Berry stressed that Hoyer met with el-Katatni in his capacity as an independent member of Egyptian parliament. He would not say what the two discussed.
Hassan said the two lawmakers discussed developments in the Middle East, the Brotherhood's vision and opposition movements in Egypt. He said the two met privately at the ambassador's home and with other members of Hoyer's bipartisan delegation and Egyptian lawmakers at the parliament building.
Hoyer's meeting came just a day after Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi drew sharp criticism from the Bush administration for meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus.
Pelosi and other Democrats argue the administration needs to engage Syria to resolve some of the problems in the Middle East, such as Iraq and the Israeli-Arab conflict. But the Bush administration rejects that approach, accusing Syria of exacerbating the troubles in neighboring Iraq and Lebanon.
Hoyer, who also met with Mubarak during his visit, left Egypt on Friday. A telephone message left with his spokeswoman Saturday was not immediately returned. Calls to el-Katatni also went unanswered Saturday.
The Muslim Brotherhood's parliament bloc Web site said the meetings were not part of an effort to engage the United States.
"The Brotherhood not only has reservations on dialogue with the Americans but rejects the unfair American policy in the region," the Web site said.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16