Egypt's allies warn government must respect democratic rights or face revolt
Egypt's western allies, and its main middle-eastern backer Saudi Arabia, have said its government must respect democratic rights and if it is to stave off a Tunisia-like revolution.
Photo: SIPA/REX FEATURES
The criticism came as Egypt banned demonstrations and deployed riot police in an effort to stop the largest and most significant political mobilisation since protests over bread subsidies shook the Arab world's most populous nation in 1977.
In an unusually critical statement, the White House said the Egyptian government had "an important opportunity to be responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and pursue political, economic and social reforms." The strongly worded statement also expressed support for the "universal rights of the Egyptian people, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly."
The statement was issued hours after Barack Obama, the US President, said in his annual State of the Union address that in Tunisia "the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator."
European leaders have echoed Mr Obama's concerns. Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign affairs chief, called on "Egyptian authorities to respect and to protect the right of Egyptian citizens to manifest their political aspirations." Guido Westerwelle, Germany's foreign minister, also said "basic human rights, civil rights, freedom of opinion and assembly and press freedoms must be respected in Egypt."
Prince Turki al-Faisal, a powerful Saudi Arabian royal who served as its intelligence chief, also had rare words of warning for Egypt's government, saying its survival depended on its ability to understand what the population wanted. "Whether they can catch up as leaders to what the population is aiming (for) is still to be seen," he said.