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February 10, 2011

European Leaders Increase Pressure on Mubarak

by Lisa Bryant

European governments reacted with a mix of concern and impatience to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's refusal to immediately leave office.

The Europeans have been stepping up their calls in recent days for a power change in Egypt, as massive protests continue their calling for President Hosni Mubarak to leave. Those calls were reiterated following the Egyptian leader's televised declaration Thursday that he would not resign right away.

In his own televised remarks after Mr. Mubarak's speech, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said it was inevitable that the Egyptian president would leave office.

Mr. Sarkozy said he hoped Egypt's fledgling democracy took the time to get political training, structures and principles and not move toward religious dictatorship.

Britain's foreign secretary William Hague called for an urgent but orderly transition of power, while Germany's foreign minister said Mr. Mubarak's speech left the international community more worried than before.

In Brussels, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed hopes for a peaceful transition in Egypt.

Speaking alongside Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero - and  just before Mr. Mubarak's speech - Mr. Barroso said the events happening in Egypt reminded him of his native Portugal's own transition to democracy from dictatorship.

Following Mr. Mubarak's speech the European Union sharpened its tone, with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressing disappointment that the speech did not open the way to faster and deeper reforms.

Ms. Ashton called for the lifting of Egypt's state of emergency as soon as possible. And she said the orderly and irreversible transition to democracy and fair elections was a goal shared by both Europeans and Egyptians.

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