French PM says Egypt has opened 'new page'
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said in Saudi Arabia on Saturday that president Hosni Mubarak's ouster has opened "a new page" in Egypt.
"With the departure of president Mubarak, a new page has opened for Egypt," he said aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the flagship of the French navy currently participating in joint exercises with the Saudi army off the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday saluted Mubarak's "courageous and necessary" decision to step down, and called for free and fair elections be held in Egypt.
"France pays homage to this courageous and necessary decision," he said, urging the "new Egyptian authorities" to carry out reforms towards making their country a "free and pluralist society."
"It is up to the Egyptians to assess the the actions of Hosni Mubarak and the traces they have left in his country's history. But nobody can deny the contribution he has made to the peace cause in the region," said Fillon.
The prime minister has conceded that Mubarak paid for his family holiday on the Nile in January, fuelling the outrage of the political opposition in France.
Before over 1,000 sailors gathered on board the Charles de Gaulle, Fillon also applauded the "courage" of the Egyptian people, which "deserves admiration and respect."
Paris hopes that "the transition (of power) takes its course, and is democratic, peaceful and credible, and that it leads to free and transparent elections," he added.
Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman on Friday announced the handover of power to the armed forces after an extraordinary national outpouring of rage brought more than one million furious demonstrators onto the streets.
"Always a friend of Egypt," France "stands more than ever at the side of the Egyptians during this new phase of their history," said Fillon.
Saudi Arabia, where King Abdullah condemned mass protests which erupted in Egypt on January 25 as efforts by what he termed "intruders" interfering with Cairo's stability, has yet to comment on the toppling of Mubarak's regime.
© 2011 AFP