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Christians snub Cairo meeting with Clinton, claim US backs Islamists

Protesters in Alexandria, Egypt, throw shoes, tomatoes and a water bottle at the motorcade of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. NBC's Lester Holt reports.

Prominent Christian Egyptians snubbed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday because they feel the U.S. administration favors Islamist parties over secular and liberal forces in society at the expense of Egypt's 8 million Christians.

The critical theme was repeated by others Sunday in Cairo and Alexandria despite Clinton denying U.S. interference in Egyptian elections.

The politicians, businessmen and clerics who snubbed Clinton were supposed to take part in meetings between Clinton and influential members of civil society.


Coptic Christian businessman and politician Naguib Sawiris and three other Coptic politicians said in a statement they were objecting to Clinton's policies in solidarity with the mainstream Egyptian.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton poses with Egypt's Christian leaders for a picture Sunday after their meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

They also said that since the revolution, the U.S. administration and Clinton have paid many visits in support of Islamic political currents in society while ignoring other civil movements.

The four prominent Copts consider the meeting with the Islamist parties a form of external pressure to push the Islamists to power and ignore other civil movements. They blamed the U.S. for even showing a preference for an Islamist presidential candidate.

Egypt, a nation of nearly 84 million, is 90 percent Muslim, 9 percent Coptic and 1 percent other Christian denominations.

Two church leaders also turned their back on Clinton.

Coptic Bishop Morcos and Evangelical church leader Safwat al Bayadi refused to meet with Clinton because of what they characterized as interference in Egyptian internal affairs and U.S. support for Islamists while ignoring the majority of Egyptians.

A few hundred protesters chanted the same message in front of the Garden City Four Seasons hotel where Clinton overnighted.

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Clinton sought to dispel the idea.

"She wanted, in very, very clear terms, particularly with the Christian group this morning, to dispel that notion and to make clear that only Egyptians can choose their leaders, that we have not supported any candidate, any party, and we will not," a senior U.S. official told reporters on Sunday.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with newly elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a scene that no one would have believed just 18 months ago. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

Rights for all
At a Sunday meeting of prominent women, Clinton emphasized rights for all Egyptians, not their choices.

"I came to Cairo, in part, to send a very clear message that the United States supports the rights, the universal rights of all people," she said. "We support democracy. But democracy has to be more than just elections. It has to mean that the majority will be protecting the rights of the minority."

The United States will "look to any elected government to support inclusivity, to make sure that the talents of every Egyptian can be put to work in building a new future for this ancient and incredibly important country," Clinton told a group of prominent women.

Alexandria protesters chant 'Monica'
Later in Alexandria, Clinton presided over a ceremony to reopen the U.S. consulate in Alexandria, which was closed in 1993 to save money.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

Protesters gather on an Alexendria, Egypt, street Sunday as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a flag-raising ceremony for the reopening of the U.S. consulate in the mediterranean port city.

The ceremony was moved inside as protesters grew vocal outside the consulate.

In her speech, Clinton said, "I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which, of course, we cannot."

Protesters threw tomatoes, shoes and a water bottle as members of the press accompanying Clinton walked to their vans.

A tomato hit an Egyptian official in the face.

The protesters also chanted "Monica, Monica, Monica," a reference to Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern who was the focus of a sex scandal with her husband, then-President Bill Clinton.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi. Msnbc's Alex Witt reports.

This article includes reporting by Reuters.

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