Christians, Liberals Protest Clinton's Egypt Visit

Liberal and Christian groups in Egypt protested U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to the country, alleging Washington had a bias towards Islamist parties and merely wanted to achieve its strategic interests.

Clinton, who concluded her two-day visit to Egypt Sunday, was accused of striking a secret deal with the Muslim Brotherhood, about a fortnight after Mohamed Morsi from the Islamist group assumed presidency.

"In exchange for Morsi's being named president, the Brotherhood is expected to protect Israel's security by pressuring Hamas – the Brotherhood's branch in Palestine – not to launch military attacks against Israel, and even accept a peace agreement with Tel Aviv," Al-Ahram online quoted Emad Gad, a Coptic-Christian member of that country's dissolved lower house of parliament, as saying.

Gad also alleged the U.S. wanted the Brotherhood to maintain the agreements not to restore ties with Iran.

Many Christian politicians refused to meet with Clinton, who held meetings with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took over after President Hosni Mubarak's regime was toppled last year, and new President Morsi.

The Brotherhood and the military have long been enemies. In anticipation of Morsi's victory last month, the military council amended the interim constitution, stripping the new president of all major powers.

Soon after his meeting with Clinton on Sunday, Field Marshal Tantawi said the military would not allow Egypt to fall to a "certain group." "Egypt will not fall," Tantawi was quoted as saying at a military ceremony. "It is for all Egyptians, not for a certain group – the armed forces will not allow that."

While Egypt's Christians, who account for about one-tenth of the country's population, fear that Morsi's victory might lead to Islamization of the country and marginalization of religious minorities, the generals are worried about their own role in the country.

As per the constitutional amendments, the military has the right to run its affairs independent of the new president, the president is required to seek military's approval in case of a war, legislative powers lie with the generals, and the military has considerable authority over the drafting of a new constitution. The military has also indicated that fresh presidential elections will be required after the new constitution is promulgated.

The timing of American statements on Egypt, which seemed to "bless democracy" just as Islamists were winning, caused Christians to suspect Washington's intentions, believes journalist Youssef Sidhom, who attended the round-table afternoon meeting with Clinton at the American Embassy in Cairo.

"She [Clinton] kept repeating and assuring us that she has no intention to take sides," The New York Times quoted Sidhom as saying. He said Clinton noted the Brotherhood's political skills and spoke to the Christian leaders about becoming a more organized political force.

Copt politician Gad said, "We are living in an unstable period. If the SCAF goes back to its barracks, the Brotherhood will control everything." It's an Egyptian issue, he added. "It's not for the secretary of state."