CAIRO -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton used her first meeting with Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to press him to start a dialogue with military leaders as a way of preserving Egypt's transition to democracy.
Clinton voiced support for the "full transition" to civilian rule at a time when Morsi's backers are in a political standoff with the generals who have ruled since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year.
Resolving the impasse "requires dialogue and compromise, real politics," Clinton said. She said the United States is doing all it can to "support the democratically elected government and to help make it a success in delivering results for the people of Egypt."
The meeting at the presidential palace kicked off a series of high-level sessions aimed at stabilizing Egypt's fledgling democracy and its alliance with the United States, once rock-solid but now increasingly shaky.
"Things change [at] kind of warp speed," Clinton told Morsi as they began their meeting.
Clinton and Morsi didn't shake hands in front of reporters -- a subject of speculation because of Morsi's Muslim faith. But Morsi shook hands with Clinton and the U.S. delegation behind closed doors, a U.S. official said.
Morsi said, "We are very, very keen to meet you and happy that you are here." Clinton and Morsi were seated perpendicular to one another, the American on a sofa and the Egyptian on a chair.
Morsi is in a showdown with the generals since at least ceremonially gaining power on June 30. Right before his inauguration, the generals stripped him of many powers and kept them for themselves.
That move followed a decision last month by Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court to dissolve the Islamist-dominated parliament, the first democratically elected, after ruling that a third of its members were elected illegally. Morsi has issued a decree to bring the lawmakers, many of whom are his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood, back into session.
The U.S. has been careful not to take sides, focusing on principles instead of personalities and parties. The Obama administration has called on all sides to negotiate a path forward that remains faithful to the ideals of Egypt's 2011 revolution.