Hillary Clinton has met the head of Egypt’s top military council, Field Marshal Mohamad Hussein Tantawi, on the second day of her visit to the country.
The US Secretary of State discussed the transition of power to newly elected President Mohammed Mursi and stressed the need to protect the rights of all Egyptians, US officials said.
Hillary Clinton met Mohammed Mursi on Saturday.
Mohammed Mursi and the military have been in conflict over parliament’s dissolution.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) shut down the chamber, dominated by Mohammed Mursi’s Islamist allies, before he was formally sworn in last month.
It also stripped the new president, elected in the country’s first freely contested leadership vote earlier in June, of many of his powers.
Mohammed Mursi, of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, tried to reinstate parliament by decree last weekend. The Supreme Constitutional Court has said the dissolution is final.
As head of the SCAF, Field Marshal Mohamad Hussein Tantawi became Egypt’s interim ruler after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February last year.
Hillary Clinton held talks for more than an hour on Sunday with Field Marshal Mohamad Hussein Tantawi.
A senior US state department official said: “They discussed the political transition and the [military council’s] ongoing dialogue with President Mursi.
“The secretary stressed the importance of protecting the rights of all Egyptians, including women and minorities.”
Field Marshal Mohamad Hussein Tantawi brought up Egypt’s economic needs, while the pair also discussed US aid plans.
After meeting Field Marshal Mohamad Hussein Tantawi and other army leaders, Hillary Clinton will head to Egypt’s second city, Alexandria, a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood.
There she will meet leading women, the Coptic Christian community and young entrepreneurs. She is then due to fly on to Israel.
During her meeting with Mohammed Mursi on Saturday, Hillary Clinton said the situation required “compromise and real politics”.
“Democracy is hard,” she said.
She praised Egypt’s military council for its interim leadership, “for representing the Egyptian people in the revolution as compared to what we are seeing in Syria which is the military murdering their own people”.
But she also voiced support for a “full transition to civilian rule”.
The secretary of state also encouraged President Mohammed Mursi to live up to promises to protect the rights of women and minorities, and to preserve the peace treaty with Israel.
The hour-long meeting between President Mohammed Mursi and Hillary Clinton was described by a US official as candid and cordial.
However, on Saturday evening hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside Hillary Clinton’s Cairo hotel, chanting anti-Islamist and anti-US slogans in protest at her visit. Some brandished posters depicting the field marshal.
Another protest outside the US embassy was organized by Coptic Christian youth activists, who chanted: “They both can’t be trusted, not the Americans, not the Brotherhood.”
For all the US fears of an Islamist takeover in recent decades, the governments in Washington and Egypt have now realized they need each other.
Mohammed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood are particularly keen to avoid the sort of international isolation so damaging to other Islamist governments after they have taken office.