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Khalil Hamra, Associated Press
A woman casts her vote at a polling site during run-off voting in the parliamentary election in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Former President Jimmy Carter on Tuesday dismissed concerns about the success of Islamist parties in Egypt's first elections since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, because it represents the will of the Egyptian people. Carter's Atlanta-based Carter Center has sent 40 observers to monitor Egypt's staggered parliamentary elections since voting started in late November, the freest and fairest in decades. Under Mubarak, elections were blatantly rigged, and turnout was often tiny.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has held its highest contacts to date with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

The State Department says its No. 2 official, William Burns, met with several political groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday.

Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says it was a chance to reinforce U.S. expectations that Egypt's parties support human rights, women's rights and religious tolerance.

The U.S. largely shunned the Muslim Brotherhood movement when U.S.-allied dictator Hosni Mubarak was in power.

The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt's best organized party and was the biggest winner of parliamentary elections. Burns didn't meet with Egypt's more radical Salafists.