Egypt president defends security laws ahead of UK visit
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi defended a raft of tough security laws pushed through by his government, on the eve of talks in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
"There is a real roadmap for democracy in Egypt," Sisi told BBC television ahead of his visit.
"The Egyptian people have been calling for change for four years. It is our utmost wish to meet their demands and work towards a better democratic future."
After longtime president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in 2011, Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was voted in.
But Morsi was himself deposed in 2013 by then army chief Sisi, following mass street protests.
Sisi was elected last year after crushing all forms of opposition -- Islamist supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as secularists and leftists.
"In the past five years, we have been living in a state of revolution. We want stability. We don't want to do this by force or suppression," Sisi said.
"But Egypt faces monumental problems.
"We are plagued by terrorism.
"No one is oppressed in Egypt. But we're living through incredible times."
Asked about human rights, he said: "What about the millions of Egyptians who face hardship every day? What about their human rights? What about the millions of young people who want a job and education?"
Around 200 protesters gathered close to Cameron's Downing street residence on Wednesday, waving banners reading: "Sisi not welcome", "stop the repression in Egypt" and "No deals with Egypt".
Chris Nineham from the Stop the War Coalition told the crowd: "We are here tonight to stand up against the visit of the dictator al-Sisi, the man who crushed Egyptian democracy".
Another protest is planned for Thursday.
Cameron and Sisi spoke by telephone on Tuesday, and officials confirmed the Egyptian president had arrived in London Wednesday, with talks to begin on Thursday focussing on "security cooperation between both countries," a spokeswoman said.
But the visit started awkwardly as the British government announced it had temporarily suspended flights from Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh over concerns that a Russian airliner that crashed in Sinai last week may have been brought down by a bomb.
British aviation experts have been dispatched to Sharm el-Sheikh to assess the security situation.
- 'Key British interest' -
Jeremy Corbyn, the leftist leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said Cameron's invitation to Sisi "shows contempt for human and democratic rights and threatens, rather than protects, Britain's national security".
Britain "should suspend arms exports to Egypt until democratic and civil rights are restored", he added.
Crispin Blunt, chair of the British parliament's foreign affairs scrutiny committee, told AFP it was absolutely necessary for London to engage with Cairo as Egypt's stability was a "key British interest".
"But it may not have been appropriate to have that engagement done personally with the president of Egypt who was responsible for the operations in 2013 which have ended up with him being elected president."
The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Sisi, ahead of his visit, called for NATO powers including Britain to help rebuild Libya, which has been beset by violence since an uprising backed by the Western military alliance toppled leader Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
"It was a mission that was not completely accomplished," he was quoted as saying.
"We need to stop the flow of funds and weapons and foreign fighters to the extremists," Sisi said.
© 2015 AFP