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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 16:07 GMT
Egyptian religious rights investigated
Egyptian Coptic Pope Shenouda III and USCIRF delegation chairman Elliot Abrams
Pope Shenouda III and US delegation head Elliot Abrams
A delegation from the United States investigating religious freedom in Egypt has had a meeting with the head of the Egyptian Coptic Church, Pope Shenouda III.

The delegation is at the start of a tour of the Middle East, which will take in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia.

The Coptic community in Egypt complains of discrimination in many areas, including employment and the freedom to build churches.

Delegation members are expected to meet government and religious officials in Cairo.

Angry reception

The visit has prompted angry reactions across the political spectrum in Egypt, with some politicians describing it as interference in Egyptian affairs and accusing Washington of double standards.

A member of parliament suggested that Egypt should send a delegation to the United States to investigate the rights of American blacks and ethnic minorities.

The delegation is from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bi-partisan advisory body set up in 1998 to report to the president and Congress.

The delegation made no comments after the meeting the Pope Shenouda at his cathedral in Cairo.

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22 Feb 00 | Background
Egypt's fragile Coptic community
04 Jan 00 | Middle East
Funerals for victims of Egypt clashes
08 Jan 00 | Middle East
More arrests after Egypt clashes
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