Cairo: Egypt’s opposition has said they will hold protests in Cairo on Sunday when the new US Secretary of State John Kerry starts talks in the country. Kerry will arrive in Cairo on Saturday, and begins talks Sunday.
The opposition National Group for Change said it would protest outside the Egyptian Foreign Ministry against the visit, which it called “unwanted”.
The opposition has been incensed by the US State Department’s call for them to reverse a decision to boycott controversial parliamentary elections, due to begin in late April.
“Neither the US nor any other country has the right to give advice to Egyptians,” the National Group of Change said in a statement. “We do not accept intervention in Egypt’s internal affairs regarding elections or the dialogue between authorities and the opposition,” added the group, founded by Nobel peace laureate Mohammad Al Baradei.
The main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, said this week it would boycott the four-round polls, citing a lack of transparency. The bloc, a grouping of leftist and liberal political parties, also spurned a call by the Islamist President Mohammad Mursi to attend “National Dialogue” talks to discuss “guarantees” for fair and free polls.
In Cairo, Kerry is due to meet Mursi and the Defence Minister Abdul Fatah Al Sissi. Kerry is also expected to meet some opposition leaders during the visit, which is part of a current 11-day tour of Europe and the Middle East.
The visit comes amid escalating political turmoil in Egypt between Mursi and the secular-leaning opposition. The opposition accuses Mursi of tightening his Muslim Brotherhood group’s grip on power and betraying the revolution that brought him to power in June last year.
Mursi’s Islamist allies, meanwhile, accused the opposition of lacking in a grassroots support base and seeking to topple the Islamist president.
US President Barak Obama this week called Mursi and reportedly welcomed the Islamist leader’s commitment to serving as a president “for all Egyptians”.
“The President noted that Secretary Kerry will be travelling on March 2 to Egypt, where he will meet with government and opposition leaders and members of civil society, and will emphasize the need for all Egyptians to work together to build their democracy and promote economic stability and prosperity,” the White House said in a statement.
The remarks touched a raw nerve with the opposition.
“It is inappropriate for the US, which claims to be a democratic country to try to pressure the Egyptian opposition to compete in the elections or tell it what to do,” said Wahid Abdul Majid, a member of the National Salvation Front, said. “Washington obviously seeks to polish the image of the Brotherhood rule,” he told Gulf News. Abdel Majuid declined to say if any of the bloc’s leaders will meet Kerry.
The opposition accuses Washington, a key ally of the now-toppled president Husni Mubarak, of pursuing the same policy with Mursi after he repeatedly pledged to observe Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel and brokered last year a truce between the Jewish state and the Islamist Palestinian movement Hamas.