Leaders should anticipate desire for change: Sarkozy
French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on African leaders Sunday to draw lessons from the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and to anticipate their people's desire for change.
Under fire at home for having initially continued to back the now ousted regime of Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the face of the uprising, Sarkozy hailed the "profound desire" for change on the part of the Egyptians and the Tunisians as he addressed an African Union summit here.
He echoed remarks published Saturday jointly with British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and condemned "violence, wherever it comes from (and which) is never a solution."
On the sixth straight day of riots in Egypt, casualties since the start of the protests stood at over 125 dead and 2,000 injured, most of them civilians.
However, if on Saturday Sarkozy urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to push ahead with reforms, he was less direct in front of African leaders.
"France respects the sovereignty of states and the right to self-determination ... but there are values that are universal ... all political leaders have to take them on board," he said, as the AU appointed Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a leader notorious for his brutal seizure of power, as its new chairman.
"In today's world leaders can no longer rule as they did in the past. Either you just let this change catch up with you and you leave the door wide open for violence sooner or later. Or you anticipate it and take it in your stride and then it can be accomplished without violence," he said.
"France wishes to see peaceful change," the French president said.
© 2011 AFP