American diplomat: US not backing a side in Egypt

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Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. (AP Photo)

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. (AP Photo)

CAIRO (AP) — A senior U.S. 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 highest level visit to Egypt by an American official since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown by the military on July 3 following days of mass protests.

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

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.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

A senior U.S. diplomat held talks Monday with Egypt’s interim leaders as well as the head of the military in the highest level visit by an American official since the Egyptian army ousted the country’s first democratically elected leader.

The two-day visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns to Cairo comes nearly two weeks after Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown by the military following days of mass protests. 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 met with the military-backed administration led by interim President Adly Manour and Prime Minister-designate Hazem el-Beblawi, as well as army chief and Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

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 el-Sissi discussed “the recent political developments in Egypt … and ways to reinforce cooperation” between the two countries.

Burns, the No. 2 American diplomat, is also expected to meet with civil society groups and business leaders during his trip.

Ahead of the visit, the State Department said Burns would stress in his talks in Cairo U.S. support for the Egyptian people and an inclusive democratic process in which all political groups can participate.

A Muslim Brotherhood official said the group does not currently have a meeting scheduled with Burns.

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