U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham say they have urged Egypt's interim leaders to free Islamist figures from prison to facilitate a dialogue on resolving the country's political crisis.
McCain and Graham spoke in Cairo Tuesday after meeting Egyptian military chief and Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. The senior U.S. lawmakers traveled to Egypt at the request of President Barack Obama, who sought their help in encouraging Egypt to return to democratic rule.
Addressing reporters at a news conference at the U.S. embassy, Graham said he believes it is "impossible" for the Egyptian government to hold a dialogue with someone "who is in jail."
Egypt's interim authorities have detained senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including former president Mohamed Morsi, since ousting him from power on July 3. Authorities accuse the prominent Islamists of incitement to violence.
Graham said that if the detained political figures have committed crimes, the Egyptian justice system should deal with those in the future.
McCain said all parties in Egypt should engage in dialogue on a democratic political transition, provided they renounce violence.
The two senators also criticized the overthrow of Mr. Morsi as a "coup," marking a departure from the Obama administration, which has said it views the incident as part of a process of "restoring democracy."
The Egyptian military said it acted against Mr. Morsi in response to the will of millions of secular and liberal Egyptians who staged nationwide mass protests calling on the Islamist leader to quit.
Mr. Morsi had taken office one year earlier as Egypt's first democratically-elected president, but critics accused him of monopolizing power in the hands of the Brotherhood and threatening their secular lifestyle.
The Brotherhood said a meeting between one of its jailed senior leaders and international envoys on Monday was terse and unproductive.
Khairat el-Shater, the deputy chief of the Brotherhood, met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and European and Arab diplomats.
A Brotherhood spokesman said Shater told the international envoys they were wasting their time and should be talking to Mr. Morsi.
The State Department said there are no plans for Burns to meet Mr. Morsi, who has been in detention at an undisclosed location since July 3.
The Brotherhood has been holding two large round-the-clock vigils in Cairo to demand Mr. Morsi's reinstatement.
Security officials have threatened to break up the protest camps. The United States has urged Egyptians to avoid violence.
The interim government has said it will put Shater and Brotherhood chief Mohammed Badie on trial August 25. T hey are accused of starting violence that led to the deaths of protesters outside Brotherhood headquarters in June. Badie remains at large.