Ban urges Egypt to address people’s grievances

European Union, Asian states call for reforms but refrain from calling for Mubarak’s ouster.

January 31, 2011 19:15
3 minute read.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

ban ki-moon 311. (photo credit: AP)


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NEW YORK – Over the course of the past few days, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated that he wants Egypt’s leaders to take “bold measures” to address the concerns of demonstrators in that country, and to insure that freedom of expression and association are fully respected.

“He’s urging the authorities to see this situation – and this applies not just to Egypt, but to other countries in the region – to see this kind of situation as an opportunity to engage in addressing the legitimate concerns of their people,” Ban’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky said at a press conference in New York on Monday.

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Elaborating on the issue Sunday in Addis Ababa, Ban said, “I have been repeatedly saying that the leaders of any country, including Egypt, should first of all listen attentively, most sincerely, to the voices of people.

And they have a broad responsibility, first of all, to provide decent jobs and good opportunities to maintain a decent living.”

“This is what I have been urging them. At the same time, it is important that the governments ensure that a proper channel of communication is ensured – their freedom of speech, expression, and their freedom of association should also be ensured,” Ban added.

When asked what steps Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ought to take in response to protests, Ban replied: “I would leave it to the Egyptian leaders. Reflecting all these concerns and wishes, they should take some bold measures to address their concerns.”

Ban urged all Egyptians to avoid violence, and called on Egypt’s government to see the demonstrators “as an opportunity to engage in addressing the legitimate concerns of the people.”

Last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the Egyptian government to exercise restraint.

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“It has been brought to my attention that since the street protests erupted, police have confronted protestors with rubber- coated bullets, tear gas, water cannons and batons, and arrested more than 1,000 people, including political opponents,” Pillay said. “While maintaining rule and order are important, the responsibility of the government to protect the rights to life, liberty and security is paramount.”

In Brussels, meanwhile, European Union governments urged 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 beaches in the winter.

In recent days, however, the EU has sought to distance itself from Mubarak’s regime, but has been criticized for not directly challenging the 82- year-old leader’s iron-fisted rule.

A diplomat said differences remained Monday on how to treat Mubarak’s government.

The official 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.

Many diplomats stressed the right of Egyptians to assemble and supported calls for reform.

But 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.

Leaders in Asia were also cautious.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing hopes normalcy and stability will be restored in Egypt soon. The Japanese and Indian foreign ministries issued similar statements.

AP contributed to this report. 

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