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Obama to meet Egypt's first Islamist president in US in September

As Washington continues to send positive messages to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Obama is to hold his first meeting with President Morsi at the UN General Assembly in New York in September

AFP, Monday 9 Jul 2012
President Barak Obama. (Photo: AP)
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US President Barack Obama will meet Egypt's first Islamist leader, the recently elected Mohamed Morsi, at the UN General Assembly in New York in September, a US official told AFP on Sunday.
The United States has reached out carefully to Morsi as US officials predict a more complicated and less predictable relationship with a key regional ally.
Morsi of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood was last month proclaimed to be Egypt's first democratically elected president, a year and a half after street protests toppled veteran strongman and US ally Hosni Mubarak.
Despite Morsi's Islamist background, the confirmation of his election brought relief to Obama's administration which feared that the military would not accept his victory and provoke new chaos in Egypt.
Morsi put Washington further at ease shortly after his victory announcement when he pledged to be a leader for all Egyptians -- where around 10 per cent of the population is Christian -- and to honor the peace treaty with Israel.
"He's been saying a lot of the right things, both privately and then you saw him say many of the right things publicly," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters at the time.
The United States lavishly supported Mubarak during his 30 years in power but analysts say US officials will now have to work with multiple centers of power -- including a military seen as restricting Morsi's room for maneuver.
Obama spoke by telephone with Morsi after his election was confirmed and pledged to work together "on the basis of mutual respect." He also called losing candidate Ahmed Shafiq, who was close to Mubarak, and asked him to support the democratic process.
The Obama administration nonetheless put heavy pressure on Egypt at several points since Mubarak's overthrow, including when it persuaded the interim leaders to release 13 foreign NGO workers including six Americans.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also fiercely criticized Egypt's military leaders over the treatment of women after a video went viral of helmeted troops ripping off the clothes and beating a veiled woman protester.
Clinton in March nonetheless waived restrictions imposed by Congress and resumed $1.3 billion a year in military aid to Egypt.

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