Egypt protesters have 'legitimate grievances': UK

28th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Friday that protestors taking to the streets in Egypt had "legitimate grievances" and urged all sides to refrain from violence.

"I'm very concerned about the pictures that we've seen coming from Egypt," Hague said.

"There are clearly huge numbers of people on the streets, there is a great danger of violence and so we do call on all involved to refrain from violence.

"And I think it's important to recognise that the people involved do have legitimate grievances -- economic grievances and political grievances.

"And it's very important for the authorities to respond positively to that, and to be able to hold out the hope and prospect of reform in the future. That is the answer to these situations, rather than repression."

Riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets against tens of thousands of protestors in cities across Egypt seeking to oust President Hosni Mubarak.

In the run-up to Friday's protests, authorities cut most mobile phone and Internet services. But Hague said such tactics would not solve Egypt's problems.

"The prime minister of Egypt has said that Egypt believes in freedom of expression and so I think it is very important that that is upheld, because suppressing that will not in any case resolve these problems on any long-term basis," the foreign secretary said in a round of television interviews.

"What will resolve these problems on a long-term basis is real economic development and more open and flexible political systems in the countries concerned."

The Egyptian unrest followed an uprising in Tunisia which forced that country's president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Hague said that "clearly there is a message coming through from many countries in the region that they do want to see the possibility of improved living standards, of more open political systems.

"And that is a case worth making to all of the leaders of the region."

He said that when he visited Cairo three months ago, he argued "it was very important to have a more open democratic system, to have a viable opposition in Egypt, and that they needed to move in the direction of political reform."

However, he said: "It is not for us to try to choose the leaders of other countries, and to say who should or should not be in power."

© 2011 AFP

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