Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is willing to hold talks with the United States, a spokesman said Friday, taking up an offer of dialogue seen as an implicit recognition by Washington that the group will likely hold significant political power in Egypt's post-Hosni Mubarak era.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said a day earlier that the Obama administration is reaching out to the Muslim Brotherhood in a "limited" effort to build ties and promote democratic principles.
"We welcome dialogue with America to remove any misunderstandings and bridge gaps," Brotherhood spokesman Mohammed Ghozlan told The Associated Press on Friday in response to Clinton's comments.
He said it would be the first time the Brotherhood holds talks with the United States. However, there have been reports of indirect and informal contacts between Brotherhood and US officials several years ago.
In her comments Thursday, Clinton said the outreach to the Brotherhood was part of a general desire in the administration to engage all Egyptian groups as long as they espouse nonviolence.
Ammar Ali Hassan, expert in Islamic groups, said that the Brotherhood will likely try to float "conditions" or "reservations" on any dialogue to avoid a perception that it is allowing the US to meddle in Egypt's internal affairs. But in the end, the talks will give a boost the group, he said, by easing worries some in the Brotherhood and the public have of a backlash if the Brotherhood becomes the dominant player in Egypt.
"Now the Muslim Brotherhood will not have to worry of moving forward toward taking over power," Hassan said. "For decades, the United States has been eying this possibility and ready to open channels with whoever is the leading force in the country."
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