As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s armored car motorcade was riding through the Egyptian port city of Alexandria where she had given a speech on democratic rights, a tomato hit an accompanying Egyptian official in the face, and shoes and a water bottle were thrown at Hillary’s car, Reuters reports.
According to a senior U.S. official, said Clinton herself was not hit, since her vehicle had already turned a corner by the time of the incident. But she may have been able to hear the taunts of “Monica, Monica” which the protesters were chanting, a reference to the extra-marital affair conducted by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Others had chanted the Arabic equivalent of ” Clinton go home,” according to an Egyptian security official.
According to Al Ahram, several liberal and Christian politicians and public figures condemned Clinton’s visit to Egypt, accusing the United States of favoring Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. There were several large demonstrations by liberal parties and movements, including the Free Egyptians party and the Front for Peaceful Change, against Clinton’s visit outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo, the presidential palace and the Four Seasons hotel in which Clinton was staying. The demonstrators were joined by supporters of Mubarak-era vice president Omar Suleiman.
A large group of Christian politicians – including Coptic MP Emad Gad, rights activist Michael Mounir, former MP Georgette Qeleini and business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, refused to meet with Clinton during her brief visit to Egypt.
In a joint statement on Sunday, they expressed their displeasure with Clinton’s decision to meet with members of Egypt’s Coptic-Christian community following earlier meetings with Muslim Brotherhood members and Salafists. They asserted that Clinton’s move served to “promote sectarian divisions.”
Clinton met with women and Christians, two groups with reasons to fear repression under a Muslim Brotherhood government.
“I will be honest and say some have legitimate fears about their future,” Clinton told reporters. “I said to them … no Egyptian, no person anywhere, should be persecuted for their faith, or their lack of faith, for their choices about working and not working. Democracy is not just about reflecting the will of the majority. It is also about protecting the rights of the minority.”
Clinton said the U.S. had learned that “the hard way,” pointing out that the U.S. constitution originally did not protect the rights of women or slaves.
Al Ahram reported that on Saturday the Front for Peaceful Change, a pro-revolution youth group, issued a statement calling on the Egyptian public to participate in the protests to register its rejection of perceived U.S. interference in Egypt’s affairs and its deal-making with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Al Ahram cites accusations of a secret agreement which was hammered out between the U.S. and the Brotherhood, which the paper says is a common refrain among the opponents of Clinton’s visit.
Emad Gad, a Coptic-Christian member of Egypt’s recently dissolved lower house of parliament, saw Clinton’s visit to Cairo in the context of an alleged U.S.-Brotherhood deal that enabled candidate Mohamed Morsi to assume Egypt’s 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,” Gad told Al-Ahram.
Gad, whom Al Ahram introduces as a prominent political analyst, told the paper that the U.S. was also supporting the Brotherhood in return for maintaining Mubarak-era agreements not to restore ties with Iran.
On Saturday night, according to Reuters, protesters outside Clinton’s Cairo hotel chanted anti-Islamist slogans, accusing the United States of engineering the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power.
In her speech at the recently re-opened U.S. consulate in Alexandria, Clinton rejected suggestions that the United States, which had been an avid supporter of the deposed Mubarak, was backing one faction over another in Egypt.
“I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which of course we cannot,” Clinton said.
“We are prepared to work with you as you chart your course, as you establish your democracy,” she added. “We want to stand for principles, for values, not for people or for parties.”
The U.S. provides Egypt with $1.3 billion a year in military aid. But U.S.-Egypt ties were strained this year after Egyptian police raided the offices of U.S.-backed NGOs on suspicion of illegal foreign funding and put several Americans on trial.
The crisis ended after the Egyptians allowed the American and other foreign NGO employees to leave the country.
Clinton said Washington supports “real democracy,” in which “no group or faction or leader can impose their will, their ideology, their religion, their desires on anyone else.”
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