Donald Trump, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi at the White House in Washington. File / Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
The Trump administration is working to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organisation, the White House said on Tuesday, which would bring sanctions against Egypt's oldest hardliner movement.
"The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in an email.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi asked President Donald Trump to make the designation, which Egypt has already done, in a private meeting during a visit to Washington on April 9, a senior US official said, confirming a report in the New York Times on Tuesday.
After the meeting, Trump praised Sisi as a "great president."
White House national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo support the designation but officials at the Pentagon and elsewhere have been opposed and have been seeking more limited action, the senior official said.
The Brotherhood, which estimates its membership at up to 1 million people, came to power in 2012, a year after long-serving autocrat Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising. But the movement is now banned and thousands of its supporters and much of its leadership have been jailed.
The Egyptian government blamed the organisation for a 2013 suicide bomb attack on a police station that killed 16 people. The Brotherhood condemned that attack and denies using violence.
Designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist designation could complicate Washington's relationship with Nato ally Turkey. The organisation has close ties with President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and many of its members fled to Turkey after the group’s activities were banned in Egypt.
Turkey is under threat of US sanctions if it pursues plans to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems, which are not compatible with Nato systems.
Washington also says Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s would compromise the security of F-35 fighter jets, which are built by Lockheed Martin Corp and use stealth technology.
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