CAIRO -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged to a group of democracy activists yesterday that the United States will continue applying pressure on Egypt's government to meet its promises of reform.
''One good thing about having the president stand for election and ask for the consent of the governed is that there is a program," Rice told a group of dissidents, editors, and professors.
The session followed a breakfast with President Hosni Mubarak, who according to his spokesman reiterated to Rice that Egypt will not bow to US efforts to cut off international aid to the Palestinian government now that the radical group Hamas controls its parliament. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit had delivered that same message to Rice on Tuesday.
Mubarak ''emphasized the importance of giving Hamas enough time to assess the current situation and define its positions according to the demands of President Mahmoud Abbas," said presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad.
Awad said US-Egyptian ties were ''strategic and deep," but added, ''Egypt's decisions are made inside Egypt, not in any other capital or place, despite its interest in advice from its friends."
Rice did not give details of what she and Mubarak discussed.
Mubarak has pledged a variety of domestic reforms that have yet to come to pass.
Several of the activists told Rice that Mubarak is setting up a false choice between his autocratic rule and the leader of Egypt's Islamic political movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.
The activists did not agree, however, on how Rice should react to the Brotherhood, which is banned in Egypt. Rice has refused to meet with Muslim Brotherhood members and they were not represented at yesterday's meeting.
''Eliminating the Muslim Brotherhood is totally non-democratic," said Tarek Heggy, a writer and former petroleum executive. ''The issue is how can we compete with them."
Rice made a point of telling the group that she found at least one of the cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed that have inflamed the Muslim world to be ''offensive personally."
But she said the violent reaction to publication of the cartoons was ''wrong and in some cases manufactured."
Egypt has been a focus of US efforts to bring greater democratic reform to the Middle East.