British PM says Egypt must 'urgently' heed protesters

1st February 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday the Egyptian government must "urgently" heed protesters pushing for reform amid the biggest rallies yet against President Hosni Mubarak.

Cameron said he had spoken to new Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and confirmed that the British ambassador to Cairo had been in contact with Egyptian opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei.

"In his calls, the prime minister welcomed the restraint the Egyptian army had shown today and emphasised the importance of allowing the protests to take place peacefully," the premier's Downing Street office said in a statement.

"The prime minister also made very clear that the Egyptian government must now urgently listen to the aspirations of its people.

"The prime minister called for an orderly transition to a broad-based government, including opposition figures."

It added: "In addition the British ambassador in Cairo, Dominic Asquith, has had a range contacts on the ground today with both government and opposition figures, including Mohammed ElBaradei, in which he has set out this approach."

Foreign Secretary William Hague earlier criticised Mubarak's announcement of a new cabinet on Monday in which widely hated interior minister Habib al-Adly and the finance and culture ministers were axed.

"I don't think they've taken a big enough step towards resolving this crisis," Hague told the BBC.

"I don't think it's changed enough, unfortunately. This is not the broad-based government that we have called for, that our European Union partners yesterday joined us in calling for," said Hague.

Cameron's spokesman earlier described the reshuffle as "disappointing".

Hague earlier announced that he was sending a charter plane to Cairo on Wednesday to collect any British nationals who wished to leave Egypt.

© 2011 AFP

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