EU leaders renew call for government change in Egypt

Ashton says Mubarak "has not yet opened the way to faster and deeper reforms," says emergency laws must be lifted.

Catherine Ashton 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Catherine Ashton 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
BRUSSELS — EU leaders renewed calls Friday for a new government in Egypt, after President Hosni Mubarak vowed to remain in power despite massive pro-democracy protests.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Mubarak's defiant speech late Thursday "has not yet opened the way to faster and deeper reforms."
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"An orderly and irreversible transition towards democracy and free and fair elections is the shared objective of both the EU and the Egyptian people," Ashton said in a statement. "The lifting of the state of emergency ... must be implemented as soon as possible."
EU Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said Friday that "a new government including all democratic forces is crucial for this transition."
Ashton's efforts to visit Cairo to help defuse the standoff between the regime and protesters have been stymied by Egyptian authorities. Egypt's foreign minister had responded by saying he would prefer not to have any foreign visitors during this month, Ashton's spokeswoman said.
The EU has been increasingly concerned about events in Egypt, with officials worrying that events may spin out of control unless Mubarak gives in to protesters' demands.
The 27-nation bloc has traditionally had close relations with Mubarak's regime despite his iron-fisted rule, as part of its partnerships with other Mediterranean nations. But along with most European governments, the EU has increasingly sought to distance itself from the 82-year-old strongman since the protests began.
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