World leaders increase pressure on Mubarak crisis

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World leaders stepped up the pressure on Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday, as fresh violence pushed up the death toll from five days of unrest.

Britain, France and Germany appealed to the embattled leader to avoid violence and listen to his people's grievances, as the United States warned that without real reforms, his government reshuffle would be insufficient.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued their joint statement late Saturday.

"We call on President Mubarak to avoid at all costs the use of violence against unarmed civilians, and on the demonstrators to exercise their rights peacefully," they said in a joint statement.

"The Egyptian people have legitimate grievances and a longing for a just and better future," they added.

"We urge President Mubarak to embark on a process of transformation which should be reflected in a broad-based government and in free and fair elections."

Mubarak appointed Egypt's military intelligence chief as his first-ever vice president and named a new premier Saturday, after promising political and economic reform in a televised address the night before.

The three European leaders said: "It is essential that the further political, economic and social reforms President Mubarak has promised are implemented fully and quickly and meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

"There must be full respect for human rights and democratic freedoms, including freedom of expression and communication, including use of telephones and the Internet, and the right of peaceful assembly."

There was no specific US government reaction to Mubarak's government reshuffle Saturday, which included naming his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as his first vice president in 30 years in power.

But earlier, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley warned that the people of Egypt "no longer accept the status quo."

"They are looking to their government for a meaningful process to foster real reform," Crowley wrote on Twitter.

"The Egyptian government can't reshuffle the deck and then stand pat. President Mubarak's words pledging reform must be followed by action," he said.

Crowley also renewed the US call for calm.

US President Barack Obama urged Mubarak late Friday not to use violence and to take "concrete" steps towards political reforms, saying he must turn "a moment of volatility" into "a moment of promise."

His 30-minute phone call came after Washington warned that aid to Egypt worth two billion dollars was at stake.

European Union head Herman Van Rompuy said he was "deeply troubled by the spiral of violence leading to a situation which makes dialogue even more difficult."

Van Rompuy called for an end to violence, the release of all those arrested or under house arrest for political reasons and the launch of necessary reforms.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, attending at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, urged Egyptian authorities to start listening to the people's demands.

"I hope the government will start dialogue with many people immediately to get the full support and participation of the people and hope it can immediately restore political stability and peaceful civil life in Egypt," Kan said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for all sides in Egypt to work to stabilise the situation and bring about civil peace, a statement from his ministry said.

African Union Commission head Jean Ping, on the eve of a summit of the pan-African body in Addis Ababa, said the situation in Egypt was "worrying."

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah expressed his support for Mubarak and slammed those "tampering with Egypt's security and stability... in the name of freedom of expression," Riyadh's state news agency SPA said.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas also telephoned Mubarak "and affirmed his solidarity with Egypt and his commitment to its security and stability," his office said.

© 2011 AFP

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