EU ready to expand dialogue with Muslim Brotherhood

Remarks follow US announcement of "limited" contacts with group; We won’t interfere in political process, says Brotherhood spokesman.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Danilo Krstanovic)
EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Danilo Krstanovic)
The European Union is amenable to holding talks with the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported Monday.
“We are always open to dialogue with anyone who is interested in democracy,” said Michael Mann, a spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
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The remarks came days after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that Washington would hold “limited” contacts with the Brotherhood. Clinton said US authorities would stress the importance of non-violence, democratic freedoms, and the rights of women and minorities.
Ashton met with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood along with representatives of other political groups in Egypt during her four visits to the country following the start of the January 25 Revolution, her spokesman said.
That dialogue could expand, he said, provided “we are talking on the [creation of] a pluralistic political regime that allows people not just to elect their governments but to kick them out as well.”
Mann said that while the EU is willing to provide political and other forms of assistance it is “in no way” seeking to interfere with the dynamics of the political process in Egypt, the development of which he said “is looking relatively positive.
“It is important that everybody is given the time to form political parties so when elections happen it is pluralistic,” he said.
The Brotherhood is seen as the best prepared political group to contest the polls, but internal squabbles, confusion over policy and suspicion that its leaders are interested only in power have dimmed its allure for some Egyptians.
The privately owned Shorouk newspaper reported Tuesday that the movement had expelled five of its members for setting up a new political party in defiance of the group’s own Freedom and Justice Party.
The Brotherhood’s Guidance Council decided to bar the five members of the movement’s youth wing after they established the Egyptian Current Party, the paper reported.
One of the five said he planned to appeal against the expulsion and to impress on the Brotherhood leadership the part it played in the popular uprising that unseated president Hosni Mubarak.
“The decision for us to join the movement was not a decision made by the council, so how can we be expelled from it?” Abdel Rahman Khalil was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
Those behind the new party are viewed as having a more moderate agenda than the Brotherhood and are less in favor of an Islamic basis for governance.
Brotherhood Secretary-General Mahmoud Hussein already said in June that members who joined other parties would be forced to leave, a decision that has irked some younger members who took part in the protests that ousted Mubarak.
The movement, which has said it would not seek the presidency – at least in the early stages of the post-Mubarak era – has also expelled Abdel Moneim Abul Futuh, a senior member who said he would run for president.
Meanwhile, while Egyptian dailies referred in brief to Monday’s sabotage of the gas pipeline leading to Israel, the new opposition paper Al-Tahrir ran the story under the sensationalist headline, “Egyptians love bombers of gas export pipelines to Israel.”
The accompanying feature piece argued that the repeated pipeline bombings – Monday’s was the third since February – reflect Egyptians’ disapproval of gas exports to Israel at below-market rates.
Al-Tahrir made a long-awaited return to newsstands on Sunday. Its appearance marked the return of editor Ibraim Eissa, forced out of his post at the independent Al-Dostour a few months before Mubarak’s fall for publishing articles critical of the longtime president.
Reuters contributed to this report.