Egyptians throw tomatoes at Clinton’s motorcade

Anti-Islamist protesters threw tomatoes & shoes at U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s motorcade during her visit to Egypt. They accuse the U.S. of backing Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power • Clinton rejects claim that U.S. is taking sides in power struggle between ruling military council & the Brotherhood.

By Reuters


Protesters threw tomatoes and shoes at U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s motorcade on Sunday during her first visit to Egypt since the election of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Seeing red: Protesters threw tomatoes and shouted “Monica” at Clinton prior to her meeting with Egyptian military chief Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi – Photo credit: Reuters

A tomato struck an Egyptian official in the face, and shoes and a water bottle landed near the armored cars carrying Clinton’s delegation in the port city of Alexandria after she gave a speech on democratic rights.

A senior U.S. official said neither Clinton nor her vehicle, which was around the corner from the incident, was hit by the projectiles, which were thrown as U.S. officials and reporters walked to the motorcade after her speech.

Protesters chanted “Monica, Monica,” a reference to the extra-marital affair conducted by Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, while in the White House. Others earlier chanted, “Leave, Clinton,” an Egyptian security official said.

It was not clear who the protesters were or what their political affiliations were. Demonstrations have become common in Egypt since former President Hosni Mubarak, long-time U.S. ally, was brought down by mass street protests last year.

Egypt is gripped by political uncertainty as two major forces, the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, engage in a power struggle over the future of a country that remains without a permanent constitution, parliament or government.

On Saturday night, protesters outside Clinton’s luxury hotel in Cairo chanted anti-Islamist slogans, accusing the U.S. of backing the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power.

In her speech at the newly reopened U.S. consulate in Alexandria, Clinton rejected suggestions that the U.S., which had long supported Mubarak, was backing any faction in Egypt since his ousting.

“I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which of course we cannot,” Clinton said. “We are prepared to work with you as you chart your course, as you establish your democracy. We want to stand for principles, for values, not for people or for parties.”

Earlier on Sunday, Clinton met Egypt’s top general, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, to discuss Egypt’s turbulent democratic transition as the military wrestles for influence with the new president.

The meeting came a day after she met Morsi, whose powers were clipped by the military days before he took office.

Morsi fired back by reinstating the Islamist-dominated parliament that the army leadership had disbanded after a court declared it void, deepening the stand-off before the new leader even had time to form a government.

In their hour-long meeting, Clinton and Tantawi discussed Egypt’s political transition, the military’s “ongoing dialogue with President Morsi,” and the country’s economic troubles, a U.S. official traveling with Clinton said in an email brief.

“Tantawi stressed that this is what Egyptians need most now — help getting the economy back on track,” the official said.

The talks also touched on the increasingly lawless Sinai region and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Clinton raised the possibility of launching an open dialogue between Morsi and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and she was expected to deliver her assessments on the issue when she meets with Netanyahu in Israel this week.

Speaking after the meeting with Clinton, Tantawi said the army respected the presidency but would not be deterred from its role of “protecting” Egypt.

“The armed forces and the army council respects legislative and executive authorities,” he said in a speech to troops in the city of Ismailia. “The armed forces would not allow anyone to discourage it from its role in protecting Egypt and its people.”

Ties with the U.S., which provides Egypt with an annual $1.3 billion in military aid, were strained this year when Egyptian judicial police raided the offices of several U.S.-backed non-governmental organizations on suspicion of illegal foreign funding, and put several Americans on trial.

The spat ended when Egyptian authorities allowed the U.S. citizens and other foreign workers to leave the country.

Clinton said Washington wanted to support “real democracy,” in which “no group or faction or leader can impose their will, their ideology, their religion, their desires on anyone else.”

She delivered a similar message in earlier meetings with women and Christians. Both groups that fear their rights may be curtailed under a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government.

“I will be honest and say some have legitimate fears about their future,” she said. “I said to them … no Egyptian, no person anywhere, should be persecuted for their faith, or their lack of faith, for their choices about working and not working. Democracy is not just about reflecting the will of the majority. It is also about protecting the rights of the minority.”

Clinton said the U.S. had learned this “the hard way,” and that the U.S. constitution originally did not protect the rights of women or slaves.


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