British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday became the first foreign leader to visit Egypt since the downfall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, which electrified the Middle East and forced the West to rethink its policies in the region.
Cameron’s arrival came hot on the heels of a visit by US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, who started a visit to Egypt in which he will meet with the army-led interim government as well as political groups.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is due to arrive in Egypt today to discuss the post-Mubarak era in which the army is running the country while setting up free elections to deliver civilian rule and democracy.
Uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia have spread like wildfire in the Arab world, threatening entrenched dynasties from Libya to Bahrain.
The West has watched with alarm as long-time allies and foes came under threat, urging reform and restraint.
The Muslim Brotherhood, once banned and playing a growing role in the new Egypt, rejected a government reshuffle yesterday, calling for a purge of the old guard Cabinet appointed by Mubarak.
“I think this is a great opportunity to talk to those currently running Egypt to make sure this really is a genuine transition from military rule to civilian rule,” Cameron said before arriving in Cairo.
A British official traveling with Cameron said he would meet members of the former opposition to Mubarak, but not the Brotherhood, which is Egypt’s most organized political grouping and regarded with suspicion in the West.
In a bid to placate pro--democracy activists, the reshuffle late on Sunday named several Mubarak opponents, but disappointed those eager for a new line-up as key defense, foreign, justice, interior and finance portfolios were left unchanged.
Egypt’s new military rulers, who took over after an 18-day uprising ended 30 years of Mubarak’s iron rule, have said changes in the Constitution for elections in six months should be ready soon and hated emergency laws would be lifted before the polls.
However, for many democracy advocates, who want a completely new Cabinet with no links to Mubarak’s corrupt and autocratic elite to govern the Arab world’s most populous nation, the military needs to put fresh faces in office.
“No one offered us any post and had they done so, we would have refused because we request what the public demands — that this government quit as it is part of the former regime,” said Essam El-Erian, a senior member of the Brotherhood. “We want a new technocratic government that has no connection with the old era.”
The Brotherhood, which says it wants a democracy with Islamic principles, is represented on a constitutional change committee, a council to protect the revolution and will register as soon as new rules allow.
Uncertainty remains over how much influence Egypt’s military will seek to exert in reshaping a ruling system that it has propped up for six decades, with diplomats saying it is vital to “create an open political space.”
TAIPEI REACTIONS: Joanne Ou decried China’s ‘gangster diplomacy,’ while MOFA said its Fiji counterpart dealt fairly with the incident and protected the trade office’s rights The world should denounce the actions of Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji against a Taiwanese diplomat during a National Day celebration in Suva, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday as it thanked the Fijian government for its help after the Oct. 8 incident. Two Chinese diplomats tried to force their way into a celebration held by the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Oct. 8, and a Taiwanese diplomat who tried to stop them taking photographs suffered a head injury. MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) told a news briefing that the ministry
The US, Japan and Australia conducted trilateral naval exercises in the South China Sea on Monday, the US Seventh Fleet announced yesterday. It was their fifth joint operations this year in the fleet’s area of operations, it said in a statement. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain joined the JS Kirisame of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Arunta. The Arunta’s commanding officer, Commander Troy Duggan, said that Australia was continuing to build on its already close relationship with Japan and the US. “This activity is a valuable and important opportunity for all three nations,”
ONGOING PROBE: A former Military Intelligence Bureau colonel, major general and another colonel, as well as five other people, have been questioned by prosecutors The Taipei District Court yesterday ordered that a retired colonel from the Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB) calling himself Taiwan’s “first special agent” be detained and held incommunicado as part of an ongoing investigation into espionage allegations targeting at least three former bureau officials. The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office was seeking to detain former MIB colonel Chang Chao-jan (張超然) over his alleged involvement in introducing retired agents to Chinese national security authorities and passing confidential documents to China. Chang’s actions, if proven, would contravene the National Security Act (國家安全法), which carries a prison term of three to 10 years, and the National Intelligence
Seabed waste off the west coast is 1.5 times higher than the global average, with the mouth of the Tamsui River (淡水河) nearly 90 times dirtier, the environmental consultancy IndigoWaters (澄洋環境顧問) said yesterday. The firm in September last year began collaborating with local oceanographers on Taiwan’s first survey of seabed waste off the west coast, collecting 6,000 samples from near the mouths of eight rivers and conducting 215 inspections. Of the samples, 83.3 percent were found to contain trash, the group said. Based on the survey, every square kilometer of seabed had about 121,074 pieces of trash weighing 102kg, IndigoWaters chief executive Yen