Obama's 'MERE WORDS'
A leader of the Muslim Brotherhood this week met with the American ambassador and a top State Department official at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and scoffed at President Obama's commitment to democracy in Egypt.
"The Egyptian people consider America's claim that it respects democracy and freedom as mere words," said Abdul Rahman, a member of the fundamentalist Islamist group's steering committee, called the Guidance Bureau.
The Brotherhood, now the most powerful political force in Egypt, also criticized Mr. Obama on its website and accused him of failing to keep promises made during his June 2009 visit to Egypt.
"President Obama's promises, made during his visit to Egypt, have not been fulfilled, and Egyptians want to see more concrete steps in this regard," the Brotherhood said.
In his meeting with Ambassador Anne Patterson and Michael Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy and human rights, Mr. Rahman also questioned whether U.S. pro-democracy groups are operating legally in Europe.
In December, the ruling military council ordered security forces to raid seven nongovernmental organizations that were helping Egyptian political parties and other groups organize elections.
Police raided the offices of the Washington-based International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House. The three groups denounced the raid and said they had government permission to operate in Egypt.
As he concluded a four-day visit to Egypt on Thursday, Mr. Posner criticized the raid on the pro-democracy groups with a warning to the newly elected government and the temporary ruling military council.
He called on the government to guarantee human rights and lift the "difficult environment in which civil society groups are operating, especially those advocating for human rights and democracy."
Mr. Posner said the United States is "encouraged" that the military council lifted an emergency law imposed after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981.
However, he also expressed U.S. worries about the ongoing "sectarian tensions," a reference to attacks on Christians by Muslim extremists.
Mr. Posner arrived in Egypt to observe the opening of the new parliament, dominated by Muslim Brotherhood allies, and the Jan. 25 anniversary of the start of the 18-day revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.
NOT A REVOLUTIONARY
The new U.S. ambassador to Moscow this week defended himself against charges that he seeks to undermine Prime Minister Vladimir Putin by meeting with the political opposition.
Ambassador Michael McFaul insisted that his meetings with opposition leaders were simply matters of protocol and that he first held talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Yuri Ushakov, a top political adviser to Mr. Putin.
In an interview with the Russian business newspaper Kommersant, Mr. McFaul dismissed allegations this month that he was trying to start an anti-Putin uprising.
"I am a scientist in politics and sociology, not a professional revolutionary," said Mr. McFaul, a former political science professor at Stanford University.
Foreign visitors in Washington next week include:
• John H. Chiang, chairman of Taiwan's Kuomintang party and a former foreign minister. He addresses the Heritage Foundation on Taiwan's relations with China.
• Gisela Piltz, a member of the German parliament and vice chairwoman of the Free Democratic Party. She discusses civil liberties in Germany at a meeting of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
• Labor Minister Rafael Pardo of Colombia, who addresses the Inter-American Dialogue.
• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email email@example.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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