Hillary at Cairo airport before her departure for Alexandria. (AFP)
Alexandria (Egypt), July 16 (Reuters): Protesters threw tomatoes and shoes at US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s motorcade yesterday during her first visit to Egypt since the election of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
A tomato struck an Egyptian official in the face, and shoes and a water bottle landed near the armoured cars carrying Clinton’s delegation in the port city of Alexandria after she gave a speech on democratic rights.
A senior US official said neither Clinton nor her vehicle, which was around the corner from the incident, were hit by the projectiles, which were thrown as US officials and reporters walked to the motorcade after her speech.
Protesters chanted “Monica, Monica”, a reference to the extra-marital affair conducted by Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, while in the White House. Others earlier chanted “leave, Clinton” an Egyptian security official said.
It was not clear who the protesters were or what were their political affiliations. Demonstrations have become common in Egypt since former President Hosni Mubarak, long-time US ally, was brought down by mass street protests last year.
Egypt is gripped by political uncertainty as two major forces, the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, engage in a power struggle over the future of a country that remains without a permanent constitution, parliament or government.
On Saturday night, protesters outside Clinton’s luxury hotel in Cairo chanted anti-Islamist slogans, accusing the US of backing the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power.
In her speech at the newly re-opened US consulate in Alexandria, Clinton rejected suggestions that the US, which had long supported former Mubarak, was backing one faction or another in Egypt following his ouster last year.
“I want to be clear that the US is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which of course we cannot,” Clinton said.
“We are prepared to work with you as you chart your course, as you establish your democracy,” she added. “We want to stand for principles, for values, not for people or for parties.”
Earlier yesterday, Clinton met Egypt’s top general, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, to discuss Egypt’s turbulent democratic transition as the military wrestles for influence with the new President.
The meeting came a day after she met Mursi, whose powers were clipped by the military days before he took office. Mursi fired back by reinstating the Islamist-dominated parliament that the army leadership had disbanded after a court declared it void, deepening the stand-off before the new leader even had time to form a government.
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was sent back to prison today on the orders of the public prosecutor who ruled an improvement in his health meant he no longer needed the care of the military hospital he was moved to last month.
Mubarak was shifted from the medical wing of Tora prison to a military hospital last month following reports of a deterioration in his health. Adel al-Saeed, the assistant prosecutor, said a medical committee formed to review Mubarak’s condition had decided his health was stable enough that he did not need advanced hospital care.