Diplomatic Roller Coaster Ahead with Egypt's Brotherhood

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The U.S. government may be in for a diplomatic roller coaster ride with the Islamist-dominated Egyptian parliament.

Despite the Obama administration's statements on the close relationship between the two long-time allies, some fractures, albeit hairline, appear to be surfacing.

With Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist al-Nour party holding 70 percent of the seats in the 508-member parliament, one thing is for certain: U.S.-Egyptian relations are transitioning.

On Sunday, the parliament considered a measure that would reject the $1.3 billion in annual aid by the United States. The measure came in response to calls in Congress to cut off the aid in view of criminal indictments issued against 16 Americans working for U.S.-backed NGOs in Cairo.

The Americans are among 43 foreign nationals accused of illegally using foreign funds to undergird anti-government activities.

In January, seven of the 16 Americans were prevented from boarding flights out of the country, some later took refuge in the American Embassy in Cairo. The other nine staffers had left before Egypt issued the indictments.

A few weeks ago, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham met with Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi and other Egyptian government officials on the sidelines of a business conference in Cairo.

McCain later told the press Tantawi was "working very diligently to try to resolve the NGO issue," which he called "very important and delicate."

"We are confident that people of good faith in this country and our country and many others can and will find an acceptable resolution to the present situation," McCain told reporters at the time.

Eventually, the court allowed the Americans to leave after the U.S. State Department paid about $330,000 in bail per defendant, each one of whom signed a document agreeing to return for the trial.

Six of them left Egypt, while Robert Becker of the National Democratic Institute opted to remain there until the trial.

Their departure sparked accusations in Egypt of kowtowing to U.S. pressure and interfering with the country's judiciary.

On Sunday, legislators called for a no-confidence vote against the ruling military government, saying the government should reflect the Islamist parliamentary majority.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which initially said it would not seek positions of leadership in the government, is calling for one of its members to be appointed prime minister.

Last week, Khairat el-Shater, deputy chairman of the Brotherhood, told al-Jazeera "we will not monopolize the government."

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