Prominent Christian Egyptians boycotted talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Egypt Sunday because they feel the U.S. administration favors Islamist parties over secular and liberal forces in that society.
For her part Clinton denied U.S. interference in Egyptian elections on behalf of the Obama administration. The politicians, businessmen and clerics who snubbed Clinton were supposed to take part in meetings between Clinton and influential leaders of various factions of that society. There are about 8 million Christians in Egypt.
The political boycotts and protests were repeated in Cairo and Alexandria on Sunday, according to an MSNBC report.
Meanwhile, Coptic Christian businessman and politician Naguib Sawiris and three other Coptic politicians invited, instead of attending, also released a statement objecting to Clinton's policies.
Those who stayed away complained that since the revolution, the U.S. administration and Clinton have visited and supported Islamic political leaders in society while ignoring leaders of other civil movements.
The four prominent Copts say Clinton is using the talks Sunday to assist the Islamist parties in gaining control over Egypt at the expense of non Islamists and social movements. They also blamed the U.S. for showing a preference for an Islamist presidential candidate.
Egypt, with a population of 84 million, is 90 percent Muslim, 9 percent Coptic and 1 percent other Christian denominations. Two church leaders were among those who turned their back on Clinton.
Coptic Bishop Morcos and Evangelical church leader Safwat al Bayadi boycotted Sunday’s talks because of what they termed as interference in Egyptian internal affairs and U.S. support for Islamists while ignoring the majority of Egyptians.
Hundreds of like-minded protesters chanted in front of the Garden City Four Seasons hotel where Clinton stayed overnight.
"She wanted, in very, very clear terms, particularly with the Christian group this morning, to dispel that notion and to make clear that only Egyptians can choose their leaders, that we have not supported any candidate, any party, and we will not," a senior U.S. official told reporters on Sunday.
Apparently that message was lost on the non-Islamist groups since they stayed away, leaving Clinton to meet with largely Islamist leaders.
Clinton did manage to say something on behalf of Democracy and minority rights.
"I came to Cairo, in part, to send a very clear message that the United States supports the rights, the universal rights of all people," she said. "We support democracy. But democracy has to be more than just elections. It has to mean that the majority will be protecting the rights of the minority."