BRUSSELS - President Mohamed Morsy travels to Brussels on Thursday for his first visit to Europe since becoming Egypt's first freely elected leader in June, hoping to reassure the European Union of his democratic credentials and win pledges of economic aid.

European governments are keen to build up ties with Egypt after the collapse of Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian rule last year, but want assurances that Cairo's Islamist government will remain an ally of the West and an example to the region.

Morsy's visit will be clouded by attacks late on Tuesday when protesters against a US-made film depicting the Prophet Mohammad scaled the walls of the US embassy in Cairo and tore down the American flag. In Libya, gunmen attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and killed the US ambassador and three other diplomats.

"The political context of this visit is very important," a senior EU official said. "Egypt is now debating its future constitution which will be key for the country ... and we hope a reference for the rest of the Arab countries."

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