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Merkel compares Egypt to Eastern Europe

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An Egyptian woman photographs her son in Tahrir Square on Saturday. Photo: DPA
12:53 CET+01:00
Chancellor Angela Merkel has drawn parallels between the popular ousting of autocratic leaders in Egypt and Tunisia with the democratic revolution in Eastern Europe 20 years ago.

“The people are standing up and not just in Europe but also in other parts of the world,” she said in a podcast.

She said Egyptian and Tunisian protestors had been calling for basic human rights, which she said were universal. “There are various facets – freedom of opinion is freedom of opinion and a state of laws is also that everyone has legal chances,” she said.

Yet she said there were differences between European and Arabic societies. “And therefore the people in these countries must decide for themselves in which direction they go,” she said.

Cooperation between Europe and Arabic countries would become more intense, she added.

“I believe we have a responsibility for this, because there will only be peace and also security for us when all people in the world have a chance for a good life,” she said.

Meanwhile Cairo was on Saturday gradually returning to a new normality after a night of celebrations sparked by the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Street blocks were being removed from the entrance to Tahrir Square where demonstrators had held out for 18 days to bring down the regime.

Millions had celebrated across the country through the night amid uncertainty of what to expect from the military which has been handed official control of the country.

Tourism companies specialising in Egyptian holidays have broken cover and made a plea for customers to return to them after seeing a dearth of bookings over the last couple of weeks.

“Day for day Egypt is losing $30 million in tourism, and the German tourism industry is losing an important market,” said Ernst Burgbacher, the government’s tourism expert.

He said the government was going to discuss how to help countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, which also recently overthrew its dictatorship, with economic reforms.

“It remains open, in which way the economic policies of these countries will go – in the direction of liberalism or protectionism,” said Bernd Pfaffenbach, Germany's deputy economy minister.

Merkel has also called for the Egyptian military leadership now running the country to do its part to uphold peace in the region.

"We also expect the future Egyptian government 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," she said.

Merkel said she wished the Egyptian people "a society without corruption, censorship, arrests and torture," adding that Mubarak had done his people "a final service" with his resignation.

"The legitimate demands made by the people in recent days must be implemented quickly. We will do everything in our power to support the developments in Egypt, the legitimate wishes of the people," she said.

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"We believe it is essential that this transformation is truly irreversible and that it results in a freer Egypt. At the end of the process there must be free elections."

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle went to Tunisia on Saturday, promising German help in the democratisation process. A month after the dictator Zine al-Abinine Ben Ali was forced to flee the country to Saudi Arabia, Westerwelle said the country could become a good example for other countries in the Arabic world.

He is set to meet a number of officials in the country, warning that the international community must not forget about developments there – in the light of what has happened in Egypt.

DPA/DAPD/hc

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