An Egyptian cleric and a supporter of ousted Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi hold up a placard against Egyptian Defense Minister General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, as they leave with other clerics following a protest, at al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, July 14, 2013. Egypt's military chief has defended the ouster of the Islamist president, saying he acted upon the will of the people after the "stumbling" of the former government. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
CAIRO — A senior U.S. diplomat held talks today with Egypt’s interim leaders as well as head of the military in the highest level visit by an American official since the Egyptian army ousted the country’s first democratically elected leader.
The two-day visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns to Cairo comes nearly two weeks after Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown by the military following days of mass protests. Washington has been sharply criticized by both Morsi’s supporters and opponents for what each side perceives as support for their rival’s position.
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.
There was no immediate word on the discussions with the interim civilian leaders. But 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.
Burns, the No. 2 American diplomat, is also expected to meet with civil society groups and business leaders during his trip.
Ahead of the visit, the State Department said Burns would stress in his talks in Cairo U.S. support for the Egyptian people and an inclusive democratic process in which all political groups can participate.
A Muslim Brotherhood official said the group does not currently have a meeting scheduled with Burns.