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CAIRO – After meeting with Egypt’s interim leaders Monday, a senior American diplomat says the U.S. supports democracy, rather than one specific political party in the country’s struggle to establish leadership.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is in Cairo for two days of talks with Egypt's interim leaders as well as the head of the military, nearly two weeks after Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was removed by the army following days of mass protests.
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.
Washington has been sharply criticized by both Morsi's supporters and opponents for what each party perceives as support for their rival's position. Burns made it clear the U.S. is not taking sides. “ It is not our business, as Americans, as outsiders, to support particular political personalities or particular parties. That's the business of Egyptians. What we will continue to try to do is to support and open, inclusive, tolerant, democratic process which is going to be the only way to build broad popular confidence in the sorts of institutions that are the aim of the revolution,” Burns told reporters at a news conference.
Burns also said the U.S. is asking the Egyptian military to avoid politically motivated arrests.
That may have been a reaction to reports that Egypt's public prosecutor ordered the arrest of seven senior Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist figures over violence between Brotherhood supporters and opponents in the days preceding and after Morsi was deposed. The latest charges accuse the suspects of ``inciting violence, funding violent acts, and thuggery,' Reuters reported.
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.
An official from the Muslim Brotherhood—which supports Morsi-- said the group does not currently have a meeting scheduled with Burns, but he is expected to meet with civil society groups and business leaders during his trip.
Burns suggested he was there to listen, not advise. “Only Egyptians can determine their future. I did not come with American solutions nor did I come to lecture anyone. We know that Egyptians must forge their own path to democracy. We know that this will not mirror our own and we will not to try impose our model on Egypt,” he said.
Burns also said he did not believe Egypt is in danger of repeating the tragedy of the Syrian conflict, where more than 100,000 people have been killed in civil war.
Meanwhile, the country is bracing for more protests. The Egyptian army said Monday it would respond with the ``utmost severity and firmness and force'' if demonstrators tried to approach or break into its bases, according to a Reuters report.
Thousands of Islamist Morsi supporters were protesting Monday to demand his return to power.More than 90 people were killed and scores more injured in the days after the military toppled Morsi July 3rd.
Protests so far this week have been peaceful.
In Geneva Monday, Egypt's U.N. ambassador, Wafaa Bassim, told reporters the "second revolution" on July 3rd was justified by Morsi's failure to listen to the people. Reuters reports that Bassim said "what we are trying to do is send a message of reassurance" that ousting Morsi-- who was democratically elected on June 30, 2012-- after the 2011 revolution, was "legitimate.” She went on to add that the military had installed only a transitional government.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.