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US will not meet with visiting Muslim Brotherhood delegation

America will still engage with the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members are visiting US on private trip
A file photo shows Muslim Brotherhood leader and former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on trial in Cairo (AFP)

WASHINGTON - American diplomats will not meet with a visiting delegation from the Muslim Brotherhood, designated as a "terrorist organisation" by the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, US officials said Tuesday.

But State Department spokesman Jeffrey Rathke said the US would still engage with the Brotherhood, whose members are visiting Washington on a private trip.

"The State Department is not planning a meeting with the visiting delegation," he said. 

"We engage with representatives from across the political spectrum, and this is a group we've also met with in the recent past. But you know, we don't have any further reasoning than we simply aren't meeting with them this time."

A State Department official told AFP, "It is the prerogative of the (State) Department to prioritise its engagements and a meeting won't be helpful at this time."

Still, Rathke said the US had "no change in policy" regarding the Brotherhood and would "remain in contact".

Rathke would not comment on media reports that Egypt had summoned US Ambassador Robert Beecroft to express displeasure over the Muslim Brotherhood visit to Washington for a private conference. 

Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters news agency on Monday that Beecroft had been called in by the Egyptian government "in recent days" to make clear its unhappiness at US dealings with the Brotherhood.

In January, US State Department officials met a group of visiting Egyptian former parliamentarians, including former members of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood's political wing.

The Egyptian foreign ministry and the country's ambassador in Washington have also kept quiet about the visit.

Sisi, the former army chief who toppled Muslim Brotherhood leader and former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and then won an election, has pledged to eradicate the Brotherhood and his government has blacklisted the movement as a "terrorist organisation".

The US and Egypt have had a difficult relationship since the fall of ex-president Hosni Mubarak at the start of 2011 and the ensuing political shifts.

Washington at the end of March unfroze its military assistance to Egypt - worth about $1.3bn annually - though continued to denounce Cairo's rights violations and the brutal repression of Muslim Brotherhood members. 

The military overthrew Morsi in July 2013 and he was sentenced to death last month.

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