Egypt rulers 'must deliver freedom'

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Egyptians celebrate Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo's Tahrir Square (AP)

Britain is calling on Egypt’s new military rulers to take “concrete and irrevocable steps” to establish democracy in their country with the staging of free and fair elections.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague warned against any attempt to “turn back the clock” following the dramatic resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, ending his 30 years of authoritarian rule.

He said that the generals, who have now taken charge in Cairo, needed to move towards the formation of “a broad-based government that meets the aspirations and commands the respect of all Egyptians”.

“The Higher Council of the Military Forces has a particular responsibility to implement the concrete and irrevocable steps this transition requires and to prepare for free and fair elections,” he said in a statement. “Any attempt to turn the clock back would be deeply damaging to Egypt’s stability and cohesion and to its standing in the world, and would be met by condemnation.

“It is not a time for half-hearted measures. Egyptians have shown that they want irrevocable change for the better, not cosmetic change.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the bravery of the demonstrators whose 18 days of mass protests finally forced Mr Mubarak to quit the office of president which he had appeared so determined to hang on to.

“Egypt now has a really precious moment of opportunity to have a government that can bring the country together,” he said. “Those who now run Egypt have a duty to reflect the wishes of the Egyptian people and, in particular, there really must be a move to civilian and democratic rule as part of this important transition to an open, democratic and free Egypt.”

US President Barack Obama, described Mr Mubarak’s resignation as the beginning, not the end, of the transition to democracy in the Arab country. However, he warned there will be difficult days ahead. “The people of Egypt have spoken,” he said. “Their voices have been heard. And Egypt will never be the same.”

The president said the Egyptian military had served patriotically and responsibly and must now lay out a clear path toward fair elections.

Mr Obama added: “Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained by violence. For Egypt, it was the moral force of non-violence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.”

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