Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned “despicable” scenes of violence in the Egyptian capital Cairo, where supporters of Hosni Mubarak have attacked demonstrators calling for the president’s removal.
Speaking alongside United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon after talks in 10 Downing Street, Mr Cameron said that the political transition to a new broad-based government in Egypt needs “to be accelerated and to happen quickly”.
Central Cairo witnessed the worst scenes of violence since anti-Mubarak demonstrations began more than a week ago, with several thousand supporters of the president, some riding horses and camels and wielding whips, attacking protesters in Tahrir Square.
Speaking outside Number 10, Mr Cameron said: “If it turns out that the regime in any way has been sponsoring or tolerating this violence, that would be completely and utterly unacceptable. These are despicable scenes we are seeing and they should not be repeated.”
Mr Ban added: “I once again urge restraint to all sides… Any attack against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable and I very strongly condemn it.”
A military spokesman appeared on Egyptian state TV on Wednesday asking protesters to disperse, in a sign that the Army’s toleration of the demonstrations – which saw an estimated 250,000 people cram into Tahrir Square on Tuesday – may be coming to an end.
Mr Mubarak went on national television on Tuesday to say that he would step down at national elections in September, but rejected opposition calls for him to go now.
Around 10,000 opponents of the regime returned to protest on Wednesday morning, renewing demands for Mr Mubarak’s immediate removal.
Chaotic scenes developed as they clashed with pro-Mubarak protesters, who tore down placards and posters and fought with demonstrators. The two sides hurled stones and lumps of concrete at one another and some of the pro-Mubarak forces were pulled from horses and camels and beaten.
Mr Cameron said that he “completely” condemned the violence, adding that the events “underline the need for political reform and for that political reform to be accelerated and to happen quickly”.