Cameron becomes first world leader to visit Egypt

David Cameron is the first world leader to visit Egypt
David Cameron is the first world leader to visit Egypt

By Ian Dunt and Alex Stevenson

David Cameron has become the first foreign leader to visit Egypt after the overthrown of Hosni Mubarak.

The visit is a sign that the prime minister intends to offer a more robust defence of democratic demands in the Middle East.

The prime minister landed in Egypt on Monday morning on the unannounced visit. He met with representatives of the opposition as well as the current government.

"There are some good signs [of transition to democracy]," he told the BBC.

"I would argue and have been arguing with them today that they need to do more more quickly in terms of ending the state of emergency and allowing political parties to register.

"As a friend of Egypt we want this transition to happen. We want it to take those first steps.

"It's not a question of either lecturing or legitising," he continued.

"We want to be helpful. We do that with a sense of respect. We have a long-standing relationship with Egypt. Our two countries go back over decades, over centuries."

Downing Street confirmed that Mr Cameron would be visiting the Middle East all week.

"The region is vital to UK interests," the prime minister's spokesperson said.

"A reformed Middle East will mean a more prosperous, more secure region."

Britain wants to encourage political reform in the region, but officials are avoiding making sweeping statements. No 10 has emphasised the need to approach the region on a country-by-country basis.

Mr Cameron is also hoping to use his trip to strengthen Britain's security ties in the region and give British businesses a boost.

A business delegation comprising representatives from the UK's construction, finance, manufacturing, defence and higher education sectors is accompanying the prime minister.

Mr Cameron's first focus will be on Egypt, however. It comes just over a week after Mr Mubarak was overthrown, following a sustained protest movement in Cairo and other major cities.

It was the most substantial scalp in an unprecedented wave of activism across the Middle East, which also brought down leaders in Tunisia.

The military took over from the president in Egypt with a promise to complete a swift transition to civilian rule.

Constitutional reforms are set to take place in the next two months before elections, which should take place before September.

But there is considerable concern in international circles that the army will want to hold on to power. It is a well-loved institution among the Egyptian public but was traditionally a significant power base for the former dictator.


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