CAIRO â€” Several prominent Egyptian Christians boycotted a meeting on Sunday with Secretary of StateÂ Hillary Rodham Clinton, objecting to what they said was interference by the United States inEgyptâ€™s politics in order to aid an Islamist rise to power.
Clergy members and other who did attend complained to Mrs. Clinton that the United States seemed to be siding with Egyptâ€™s newly elected president,Â Mohamed Morsi, a former leader in theÂ Muslim Brotherhood, in his power struggle with the countryâ€™s military council.
Though there is little evidence that Mr. Morsi needed American help gaining power, or received it, the complaints reflect persistent concerns among Christians about Islamist rule and underscore the difficulties Mrs. Clinton has faced during her two-day visit to Cairo, treading through the minefield of a transition laden with political feuds and ideological splits.
Constrained by an almost complete mistrust of the United Statesâ€™ motives in Egypt, Mrs. Clinton has sought to use her only leverage â€” economic assistance â€” to try to coax the military and Mr. Morsi toward resolving their rift. While the Obama administration has often called for a speedy transition to civilian rule, Mrs. Clinton avoided making any specific public prescriptions here, favoring language instead that called for Egyptian solutions along with respect for minority rights.
After meeting Mr. Morsi on Saturday, Mrs. Clinton sat down on Sunday morning with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the leader of the military council that took power after President Hosni Mubarak was deposed last year. The military still retains broad legislative and executive authority, having seized further powers before the presidential election in June.
After the meeting, which lasted a little over an hour, a senior State Department official said Field Marshal Tantawi and Mrs. Clinton had discussed the economy, regional security, â€œthe political transitionâ€ and the militaryâ€™s â€œongoing dialogue with President Morsi.â€
Field Marshal Tantawi stressed that Egyptians need â€œhelp getting the economy back on track,â€ the official said. â€œThe secretary stressed the importance of protecting the rights of all Egyptians, including women and minorities.â€
But just hours after the meeting, Mrs. Clinton appeared to have achieved little reconciliation between the two sides. Field Marshal Tantawi, addressing a military ceremony, seemed eager to revive his dispute with Mr. Morsi, who was traveling in Ethiopia. â€œEgypt will not fall,â€ he said. â€œIt is for all Egyptians, not for a certain group â€” the armed forces will not allow that.â€ The comments were widely interpreted as referring to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Later on Sunday, in a break from politics, Mrs. Clinton met with young entrepreneurs, marveling at one manâ€™s proposal to build a Web site connecting doctors with patients. â€œThis is an idea thatâ€™s going to spread beyond Egypt,â€ she told the man, Mostafa Nageeb, 21.