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Is Mubarak’s outster a win for Democracy?

By AFP
February 12, 2011

The happy throng: Hope or hopelessness? (AFP)

Western leaders hailed the toppling of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak as a historic victory for people power and democracy, while China, Russia and Saudi Arabia called for stability on Saturday.

Messages of congratulation to the Egyptian people flooded in after Mubarak handed over power to senior army officers following 18 days of mounting protests against his autocratic 30-year rule.

US President Barack Obama said the people of Egypt had spoken and would settle for nothing less than “genuine democracy.”

The armed forces would now have to ensure a political transition that was “credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people,” Obama said, warning of “difficult days ahead.”

UN chief Ban Ki-moon praised Mubarak for bowing to the will of the people and taking a “difficult decision, taken in the wider interests of the Egyptian people.”

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called for “fundamental reform that will ensure the opportunity and freedoms that ordinary Egyptians have been calling for.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy saluted Mubarak’s “courageous and necessary” decision to resign, saying “France calls on all Egyptians to continue their march towards liberty.”

And British Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the moment as “part of this important transition to an open, democratic and free Egypt.”

China, in contrast, said it hoped to see a swift return of “stability and public order,” with the English-language China Daily noting that the anti-Mubarak protests had caused “havoc.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also called for balance and composure.

“We hope that the latest events will help the restoration of stability and ensuring the normal functioning of all the structures of the authorities.”

Saudi Arabia, a key power player in the Middle East and a Mubarak ally, also called for stability on Saturday as it welcomed the “peaceful transition of power” in Egypt.

The conservative kingdom also hopes “the efforts of Egypt’s armed forces will bring peace and stability,” said an official quoted by state news agency SPA.

Saudi King Abdullah had expressed support for Mubarak last month and slammed those “tampering” with Egypt.

For Israel, Cairo has been a key peace partner, and a government official said: “We hope that the transition to democracy, for Egypt and for its neighbours, will be done smoothly.”

The official stressed the need to preserve the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, signed two years before Mubarak came to power.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she expected Egypt “to continue to keep the peace in the Middle East, in that the agreements made with Israel are respected and Israel’s security is guaranteed.”

And in a statement released Saturday, she stressed that the Arab world must listen to its citizens’ demands that basic human rights be respected.

“These freedoms are indivisible and the governments of the Middle East must get used to this,” she said.

A wave of euphoria swept Arab cities as news spread of Mubarak’s departure, with jubilant crowds taking to the streets from Gaza to Beirut in celebration.

From the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised the “start of the victory of the Egyptian revolution” as celebrations erupted across the territory.

Qatar called the power change a “positive and important step towards achieving the aspirations of the Egyptian people for democracy, reform, and a decent life.”

Iran, noting that its own 1979 overthrow of the shah also occurred on February 11, said Egyptian protesters achieved a “great victory.”

On Saturday Iranian officials again hailed Egypt’s 18-day revolution, but pointedly ignored parallels, bluntly drawn by Washington, between the protest movements in Cairo and Tehran, where authorities brutally suppressed an uprising after disputed 2009 elections in Iran.

In Yemen, thousands of people took to the streets, emboldened by a one-two revolutionary punch. Some chanted: “Yesterday Tunisia, today Egypt, and tomorrow Yemenis will break their chains.”

Yemen, whose own President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been in power more than three decades, said Saturday it “respects the choice” of the Egyptian people and has trust in their military after Mubarak’s ouster.

In Algeria up to 2,000 demonstrators evaded police Saturday to rally in a central Algiers square demanding that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down.

Ringed by hundreds of anti-riot forces, demonstrators waved a large banner reading “Regime, out” and chanted slogans borrowed from the mass protests in Tunis and Cairo.

Copyright © 2011 AFP

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