US, EU urge quick transition to civilian government in Egypt

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WASHINGTON: The Obama administration voiced fresh support Friday for restive Egyptians demanding a smoother, speedier transition to democracy following president Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power earlier this year.

"The United States will continue to stand with the Egyptian people as they build a democracy worthy of Egypt’s great history," the White House said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the European Union condemned the "excessive violence" used by Egyptian authorities against protesters and urged the military rulers to swiftly hand over power to civilians.

"The European Union is deeply concerned about the critical situation in Egypt and condemns the excessive violence committed by the Egyptian authorities against the population," said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The statement came amid continuing unrest in Egypt, where protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square insist they will not leave until the ruling military council that succeeded Mubarak steps down in favor of a civilian presidential council.

In its statement, the White House said: "The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately.

"We believe that Egypt’s transition to democracy must continue, with elections proceeding expeditiously, and all necessary measures taken to ensure security and prevent intimidation," it said. "Most importantly, we believe that the full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible."

Egypt’s military rulers have rejected protester demands for them to step down immediately and said Thursday they would start the first round of parliamentary elections on time next week, despite serious unrest in Cairo and other cities.

The ruling military council insisted it is not the same as the old regime it replaced, but the generals appear to be on much the same path that doomed Mubarak nine months ago — responding to the current crisis by delivering speeches seen as arrogant, mixing concessions with threats and using brutal force.

On that score, the administration reiterated in Friday’s statement that it has "condemned the excessive use of force" against protesters and that it has "called for restraint on all sides."

"We deeply regret the loss of life and urge the Egyptian authorities to implement an independent investigation into the circumstances of those deaths," the White House said. "But the situation Egypt faces requires a more fundamental solution, devised by Egyptians, which is consistent with universal principles."

"Egyptian has overcome challenges before and will do so again," the statement said.

Kocijancic called for restraint from "all sides" and said the EU expects an independent investigation into the events.

"We urge a swift handover to civilian government and underline the need for democratic transition to be transparent, fair and accountable," she said.

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