Obama plays down Brotherhood

Washington: Backing a move for a "representative and responsive government" in Egypt, US President Barack Obama has played down the prospects of Muslim Brotherhood taking a major role in the new set up in the strife-torn Arab nation.

In clear indications that US feels there is no role for embattled President Hosni Mubarak, Obama said that there can be no going back to pre-protest era in Egypt.

"I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is one faction," Obama said. "They don`t have majority support in Egypt."

Even so Obama, appearing in Fox television, acknowledged that the outlawed Brotherhood was well organized and had "strains of ideology that are anti-US".

But he exuded confidence that a representative government would emerge in Egypt from the ongoing turmoil and Washington could work with it.

"What Egypt needs is a peaceful and orderly transition," he said.

"But here`s the thing that we have to understand, there are a whole bunch of secular folks in Egypt, there are a whole bunch of educators and civil society in Egypt that wants to come to the fore as well," he said in his first comments on the role of Brotherhood, long dubbed a extremist organization.

"It`s important for us not the say that our only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed Egyptian people," Obama said.

Elaborating on the banned Egyptian group, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she would not pre-judge who should or should not participate in the political process.

"They have to decide who is going to be eligible to run. What we want is to see an inclusive process," she said when asked about Brotherhood joining the political process, on her way back from the Munich security conference.

Obama, in his interaction with Fox TV, also refused to be drawn into predicting whether Mubarak would step down and said "only he knows what he is going to do."

He said US cannot forcefully dictate in Egypt, but "what we can say is that the time is now for you to start making changes in your country. Mubarak has already said he is not going to run again."

But in a turnabout, Clinton said "forcing Mubarak to leave in a hurry could complicate the already enormous challenges Egypt faces in transforming itself from autocracy to democracy."

Obama said Mubarak has been a good partner when it comes to the peace with Israel.

"There have been counter-terrorism efforts that he`s been very supported of. But we`ve also said consistently said to him both publicly and privately is that trying to suppress your own people is something that is not sustainable. And part of the message that I think we`re seeing all around the world is, when you resort to suppression, when you resort to violence, that does not work," he asserted.