EU urges Egypt: Seek peaceful shift to democracy
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Last Updated: Tuesday, February 01, 2011, 00:15
Brussels: Egypt needs to build a peaceful transition to democracy, European Union governments said Monday, urging President Hosni Mubarak's government to end its violent crackdown on demonstrators and allow an open dialogue on the country's future.

The 27-nation EU has traditionally had close relations with Egypt as part of its partnerships with countries on the eastern and southern rims of the Mediterranean and its citizens have flocked to Egyptian beached in the winter. In recent days, however, the EU has sought to distance itself from Mubarak's regime but been criticized for not directly challenging the 82-year-old leader's iron-fisted rule.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told the BBC that Mubarak must choose his response carefully to the demonstrations.

"There needs to be a proper, orderly transition to a more democratic situation, where there are greater rights, greater freedoms, better rule of law," Cameron said. "This repression, if you opt for that, that will end badly for Egypt, badly for the world. It is the wrong choice."

Cameron, however, stopped short of calling for Mubarak, a key Western ally for the past 30 years, to give in to demonstrators' demands to step aside.

"It is very important that, whether it is President Obama or me, we are not saying who should run this country or that country," Cameron said.

His views found resonance at the monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

"We're talking here about a rightful concern, particularly of the middle class, namely the opportunity to advance, democratic rights, civil rights," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged the government in Cairo to listen and respond to the "legitimate grievances" of Egyptians.

"Their aspirations for a just, for a better future should be met with urgent, concrete and decisive answers and with real steps," she told reporters.

Some European foreign ministers, however, warned Egyptians to be on guard against a possible takeover by religious militants.

"I am sure Egyptians will be in a position to choose democracy and civil rights, not extremism, not radicalism," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said.

A diplomat said differences remained today on how to treat Mubarak's government. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with standing rules, said some nations wanted the bloc to urge the strongman to step down, while others wanted to give him more time to form a transitional government.

Meanwhile, the EU Institute for Security Studies said Mubarak's regime was "beyond the point of reforming." The appointment of Omar Suleiman as vice president "indicates that the army, probably prodded by the US administration, has accepted that Mubarak must leave," the EU think-tank said.


First Published: Tuesday, February 01, 2011, 00:15

Tag: EgyptEUMubarak
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