The Obama administration has reached out to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood in a bid to get the powerful Islamist party involved in efforts to form a new civilian government after the ouster last week of former president Mohammed Morsi, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Administration officials said Monday the outreach is intended to accelerate Egypt's move toward civilian rule after the military toppled Morsi, the Brotherhood's senior leader, in the face of national protests of his government, the Journal says.
"We have been in touch and that should not in any way be unexpected," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "We urge [the Muslim Brotherhood] to engage in the political process. That's the path we urged them to follow."
The Muslim Brotherhood has so far refused to take part in talks to restore Egypt's civilian rule, demanding instead that Morsi be released from military custody and returned to his post as president.
Morsi, along with dozens of other Muslim Brotherhood leaders, have been detained by the military since the weekend as violent protests continued across the embattled nation, the Journal reports. The Brotherhood described the clashes Monday that left more than 50 pro-Morsi protesters dead as a massacre, while the military said Islamists provoked the bloodshed.
The State Department would not say which U.S. representative is attempting to convince the Muslim Brotherhood to join the political process, the Journal says.
The United States has come under fire from both sides: The Muslim Brotherhood has accused the administration of not using its influence to block the military from deposing Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader. Morsi opponents said the White House had grown too supportive of his year-old regime even as Morsi tried to steer the nation away from a secular government toward an Islamic state.
But, the Journal reports, Psaki said the administration is "on the side of the Egyptian people," adding: "We're not taking sides."
The military's effort to restore civilian rule was dealt a blow Monday when the only Islamist group to support the removal of Morsi, the Al-Nour Party, backed out of talks to form an interim government, angered by Monday's bloodshed by security forces against the protesters.
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