International community monitors Egypt situation

14:57, February 04, 2011      

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The international community Thursday continued to watch the situation in Egypt with great concern as violent clashes erupted there.

The leaders of France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain jointly issued a statement Thursday, expressing their "extreme" concern over the situation and calling for a "rapid and orderly transition" of government.

"Egyptians should be able to exercise freely their right to demonstrate peacefully and enjoy the protection of security forces," they said, adding that "attacks against journalists are totally unacceptable."

The five European leaders said "that transition process must start now"

and violence "will only worsen the political crisis in Egypt".

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said Thursday the transitional period in Egypt started with President Hosni Mubarak's announcement he would not run for the presidency at the end of his current term in office.

In a statement, Moussa regretted the peaceful anti-government protests turned violent after some outlaws joined them to wreak havoc in the Egyptian streets, official MENA news agency reported.

The secretary general, a former Egyptian foreign minister, said the clashes on Wednesday between Mubarak supporters and anti-Mubarak protestors in central Cairo's Tahrir Square required an investigation.

Russia said Thursday it opposed any external pressure on the Egyptian leadership and Egyptians and believed the country had to resolve its current political crisis by itself.

In a statement in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke highly of Egypt, saying the country was Russia's "strategic partner and a key country in the Middle East region."

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday in London that he was concerned about the violence in Egypt and called for an immediate transition of power.

The UN chief also called on all parties in the protests to show restraint and engage in talks.

Anti-government protesters, who have insisted Mubarak step down immediately, continued to stand their ground at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, although violent clashes erupted at the square between them and government supporters on Wednesday.

Egyptian Minister of Health Ahmed Farid said Thursday five people had been killed and more than 800 injured in the clashes so far.

The French government on Thursday urged all its nationals to leave the country "as soon as possible", over fears a "civil war" could break out.

The United Nations Thursday evacuated about 360 staff and members of their families to Cyprus.

Meanwhile, Egyptian prosecutor general Abdel Magid Mahmoud banned three former ministers and a senior ruling party official from leaving Egypt on Thursday.

The former ministers of Interior, Housing and Tourism and the National Democratic Party official Ahmad Ezz were ordered to stay in Egypt. Their assets were frozen.

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said Thursday he was ready to go to Tahrir Square to have a dialogue with people from the different sides.

He offered "apologies" for Wednesday night's clashes and promised that offenders would be held accountable.

The prime minister also asserted the crisis didn't affect navigation in the Suez Canal and it was running at full capacity.

Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman said on Thursday that neither Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak nor his son Gamal would run for presidential elections in September.

He also said the whole Egyptian constitution was subject to change, not only Articles 76 and 77, which deal with who can run for president and the number of terms a president can serve, which is currently unlimited. Limiting the number of terms and relaxing restrictions on potential candidates are among the concessions offered by the government to end the protests.

Source: Xinhua
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