US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday tentatively welcomed the Egyptian government's inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in negotiations over the future of the country.
"Today we learned the Muslim Brotherhood decided to participate, which suggests they at least are now involved in the dialogue that we have encouraged, the US's top diplomat told National Public Radio (NPR).
Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood rejects reforms as 'insufficient'
Reporter's Notebook: Our woman in Cairo
Speaking from Germany on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Clinton added: "We're going to wait and see how this develops, but we've been very clear about what we expect."
"The Egyptian people are looking for an orderly transition that can lead to free and fair elections," she said. "That is what the United States has consistently supported."
Clarifying that Washington has "set forth the principles" it supports and is "adamant about non-violence," Clinton reiterated that the Egyptian people "will ultimately determine if [the transition] is or not meeting their needs."
Earlier Sunday, Egypt's vice president reached out to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups as part of a new offer of sweeping concessions including press freedom and an eventual end to hated emergency laws that have been in place for decades, the latest attempt to try to calm an anti-government upheaval.
But the youthful protesters filling Cairo's main square said they were
not represented and were united in rejecting any form of negotiations
until Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak steps down, raising questions
about whether a rift might be developing that could undermine their
The protesters, skeptical the government will keep any promises to reform, said they will maintain their pressure.
Egypt's opposition has long been hampered by a lack of cohesiveness and
Sunday's talks could be a sign the government is trying to divide and
conquer as it tries to placate protesters without giving in to their
chief demand for Mubarak to go now.
The Brotherhood and another group that attended the talks both said
afterward that this was only a first step in a dialogue which has yet to
meet their central demand for Mubarak's immediate ouster, showing the
two sides had not reached a consensus.
"I think Mubarak will have to stop being stubborn by the end of this
week because the country cannot take more million strong protests," said
Brotherhood representative Essam el-Erian.
Suleiman's invitation to the Muslim Brotherhood to participate in the
meeting was the latest in a series of concessions that would have been
unimaginable just a month ago in this tightly controlled country.