Britain keeps pressure on Mubarak


Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he would not stand for re-election

Britain is continuing to push for a change in how Egypt is governed after protesters in the country reacted angrily to president Hosni Mubarak’s plan to transfer power after he announced he would not stand down until later this year.

Demonstrators maintained their presence in Cairo’s main square after Mr Mubarak rejected intense pressure to stand aside immediately.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Britain would study the detail of Mr Mubarak’s proposals but added that the “real test” would be whether the Egyptian people’s aspirations were met.

He said: “We have been clear in public, and with President Mubarak and his government in private, about the need for a transition to a broader-based government that will produce real, visible and comprehensive change.”

The developments came after the Foreign Office announced it was sending a charter plane to Egypt to allow further British nationals to leave the troubled country. The Boeing 757, with capacity for 220 passengers, will leave from Cairo for Gatwick on Thursday. The charter could be followed by further flights if necessary.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman described it as part of a “belt and braces approach”, adding: “We are simply ensuring there is significant capacity in place. “It’s a sensible contingency plan given that we have a developing situation in the country.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The flight from Cairo to Gatwick is to supplement commercial flights already being provided by British airlines.

“This flight is not instead of commercial flights – those already booked on other commercial flights should not cancel their bookings.”

The Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Suez and recommends that British nationals without a pressing need to be in Cairo, Alexandria or Suez leave where it is safe to do so.

An estimated 30,000 British holidaymakers remain in Egypt, but the bulk of them are in Red Sea coastal resorts like Sharm el-Sheikh, where there has been little disturbance. Downing Street said the numbers waiting to leave Cairo airport had reduced considerably.

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