EU urges Egypt: Seek peaceful shift to democracy

The 27-nation EU urged Mubarak to end violent crackdown on demonstrators.

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

"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.