Her remarks, at a news conference after her meeting with Morsi, were made in response to a question and were part of a broader message aimed at convincing Egyptians that the United States wants to engage rather than browbeat.
Clinton said her discussion with Morsi had been “constructive” and had focused heavily on the $1 billion in economic aid and other investments that the United States is providing to help Egypt’s flailing economy and especially its restless, jobless youth.
She said repeatedly that Washington is not trying to interfere in Egypt’s political affairs, that it is “for Egyptians to decide your way forward” in the country’s democratic transition.
“Democracy is hard,” she said. “It requires dialogue and compromise and real politics.”
Clinton arrived in Cairo on Saturday afternoon, and her motorcade sped directly along the palm-lined streets to the presidential palace, where she was quickly ushered into meet Morsi, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The two shook hands and sat at a right angle, Clinton on a couch, Morsi in a chair.
“Things change at kind of a warp speed,” Clinton said as the cameras flashed.
Morsi spoke in English about the speed of change, and then the man once imprisoned by the repressive government that the United States supported for decades welcomed Clinton.
“We are very, very keen to meet you and happy that you are here,” Morsi said as reporters were shown out of the room.
Morsi, who took office last month, has yet to name a cabinet. The Egyptian parliament is in limbo. The new constitution remains unwritten. And the newly elected president spent most of the week leading up to Clinton’s visit locked in a face-off with the military vestiges of the former government, showing how blurred the lines of power remain.
Analysts said that there was no avoiding the timing of Clinton’s visit; neither country can wait for tidier conditions before beginning to restitch one of the most important strategic relationships in the region.
A smattering of relatively small protests greeted Clinton’s presence in the capital, the largest being an anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstration outside the hotel where the U.S. delegation was staying.
“Obama don’t send your dollars to Jihadists,” read a sign one protester was waving in the chanting crowd of about 2,000, a mix of revolution supporters who resent the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and secularists worried about the rise of Islam.
Senior U.S. officials traveling with Clinton said the main purpose of her visit to Cairo was to listen, to try to get a feeling for the political situation.