Middle East

US in contact with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood - Clinton

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a press conference in Hungary on 30 June 2011
Image caption Hillary Clinton said the US would stress the importance of human rights in any talks

Washington has had "limited contacts" with Egypt's largest Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.

She said the US wanted to "engage with all parties" seeking peace and non-violence following Egypt's uprising.

The Muslim Brotherhood has a strong following in Egypt but was illegal under ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

The group is planning to stand in parliamentary elections scheduled for September.

'Respect our values'

Mrs Clinton, on a visit to Budapest, told reporters that the Obama administration was "continuing the approach of limited contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood that have existed on and off for about five or six years".

She went on to say that "given the changing political landscape in Egypt... it is in the interests of the United States to engage with all parties that are peaceful, and committed to non-violence, that intend to compete for the parliament and the presidency".

She insisted that they would, in any talks, continue to press home the importance of democracy, non-violence, respect for minority rights and the full inclusion of women.

The Muslim Brotherhood said it welcomed Mrs Clinton's remarks but that no "direct contact" had yet been made.

"We are willing to meet in a context of respect," spokesman Mahmud Ghozlan told the AFP news agency.

"If the US is truly willing to respect our values and support freedom, as it says it does, then we have no problem."

The Brotherhood is still technically illegal under Egypt's constitution, which bans parties based on religion, class or regionalism.

But it is assumed to be Egypt's best organised and most popular opposition movement, and has begun its campaign to be recognised as a formal political party.

The Muslim Brotherhood has stressed that the new party it has set up to contest September's elections will be a civil, not a theocratic, group.

But correspondents say that with its Islamist agenda and historical links to radical groups, the group is feared and mistrusted in the West and to some extent in Egypt.