EU leaders urge dialogue in Egypt

Dutch PM says it would be "gratuitous and arrogant" to call for Mubarak's resignation; Berlusconi hopes Mubarak can remain in power.

February 4, 2011 12:44
3 minute read.

eu flag 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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British Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday that if the Egyptian regime uses violence on protesters it will lose any remaining international credibility it has left.

The steps the Egyptian government has taken so far have failed to meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people, Cameron said as he arrived in Brussels for a European Union summit that was supposed to be dominated by economic matters.

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"Above all, the message is this: if we see on the streets of Cairo today state-sponsored violence or the hiring of thugs to beat up protesters, then Egypt and its regime would lose any remaining credibility and support it has in the eyes of the watching world, including Britain," Cameron said.

Other European Union leaders arriving for the summit Friday called for a "national dialogue" between the government and opposition in Egypt amid escalating violent protests.

But they shied away from supporting the Obama administration's effort to persuade President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was essential that the government and people "move forward together." Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it would be "gratuitous and arrogant" to call for Mubarak's resignation.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that he hoped Egypt could move towards a democracy without having to part with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

France's foreign minister on Friday condemned attacks on foreign journalists in Egypt as "unacceptable," while Sweden's prime minister urged Egyptian authorities to respect reporters covering pro-democracy demonstrations there.

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Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday — a day after a crackdown by Egyptian authorities that allegedly saw more than 20 reporters detained and as many assaulted — Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said reporters are "the eyes and the ears of the world at the moment."

In a statement, French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie condemned "the unacceptable incidents that have compromised the security" of journalists from French media outlets, including TF1, France 2, BFM and France 24 television channels and Le Monde newspaper.

Some of the media have declined to discuss incidents involving their staff out of fears for their safety, but late Thursday, France 24 issued a statement saying that three of its journalists who had been held for 24 hours had again been picked up by Egyptian military police, only hours after their release.

On its nightly newscast Thursday, France's leading broadcaster, TF1, said two of its reporters were being held for questioning.

Alliot-Marie said some 20 French journalists were holed up in a hotel in Cairo and were in constant contact with the French embassy there.

France's ambassador in the country has been instructed to intervene immediately in case of further problems involving French journalists, Alliot-Marie's statement warned.

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