U.S. reexamining its relationship with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

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Washington, Feb.3 (ANI): The Obama administration is rapidly reassessing its tenuous relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, an opposition movement in Egypt whose fundamentalist ideology has long been a source of distrust in Washington.

Though the group has played a secondary role in the swelling protests that are threatening to topple President Hosni Mubarak, American officials have accepted that the Muslim Brotherhood is poised to assume at least a share of power should Egypt hold free and fair elections in the coming months.

On Monday, in what analysts said was a clear reference to the Brotherhood, the White House said a new government in Egypt should "include a whole host of important non-secular actors."

Some officials believe that the White House should embrace opposition groups that are more likely to support a democratic government in Egypt, rather than one dedicated to the establishment of religious law.

It also marked a change from previous days, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other officials expressed concern that the uprising in Egypt could shift power to an Islamist government much like the one in Iran, where ayatollah-led factions elbowed aside other groups to seize control of the country in 1979.

According to the Washington Post, officially, the U.S. government has long shunned the Muslim Brotherhood because of doubts about its stated commitment to non-violence and democratic principles. However, unofficial contacts have taken place sporadically since the 1990s but became more frequent after members of the Brotherhood were elected to the Egyptian Parliament in 2005.

Although the Brotherhood is Egypt's best organized opposition group, with an active charitable arm that dispenses social services nationwide, Nakhleh said it would not necessarily win a majority of votes in an open election.

The movement was founded in 1928 by Hassan el-Banna, an Egyptian imam seeking to overthrow British colonial rule, and it has spread to scores of countries.

Members of the movement are often vague about their political goals.

In an interview this week with the BBC, Kamal el-Helbawy, a Muslim Brotherhood leader in exile in Britain, said the group wants "freedom, consultation, equality, freedom of everything." (ANI)

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