Mubarak ouster a victory for 'people power'

2011-02-11 22:28

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Paris - World leaders on Friday hailed the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as an historic victory for people power, paving the way for democracy, amid scenes of jubilation.

As Mubarak's three-decade-long rule ended, a day after he enraged protesters by refusing to stand down, messages of congratulation to the Egyptian people flooded in.

US President Barack Obama said the people of Egypt had spoken after history moved at a "blinding pace," and called on the now-ruling military to ensure a transition towards "genuine democracy."

"The people of Egypt have spoken - their voices have been heard and Egypt will never be the same," Obama said in his first public response to the earlier resignation of President Hosni Mubarak after days of raging protests.

"By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian peoples' hunger for change," Obama said, in his only reference to a deposed Arab strongman who had been a staunch US ally for three decades.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the "voice of the Egyptian people has been heard", while in the first US reaction to the tumultuous events, Vice President Joe Biden spoke of an "historic day" for Egyptians and a "pivotal moment" in the Middle East.

But Biden also warned Mubarak's departure must lead to a negotiated path towards democracy, cautioning that "delicate and fateful" days lay ahead.

Wall Street reacted to the news from Egypt almost immediately, rebounding from earlier slight losses to solid gains.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy saluted Mubarak's "courageous and necessary" decision to step down, adding: "France calls on all Egyptians to continue their march towards liberty."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Mubarak's departure marked an "historic change" and that she expected Egypt's future government "to continue to keep the peace in the Middle East, in that the agreements made with Israel are respected and Israel's security is guaranteed".

British Prime Minister David Cameron said that with Mubarak's departure Egypt now had a "really precious moment of opportunity to have a government that can bring the country together".

"Those who now run Egypt have a duty to reflect the wishes of the Egyptian people," Cameron said.

Russia however offered a more guarded reaction, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressing hope the power shift "will help the restoration of stability".

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton judged that the 82-year-old strongman had "listened to the voices of the Egyptian people" who have staged more than two weeks of massive protests for his departure.

Spain promised assistance and joined calls for speedy reforms in Egypt, while India urged the senior Egyptian military commanders handed power "to establish an open and democratic framework of governance".

President Jacob Zuma praised Mubarak for "having thought like a leader, to place the interests of Egypt above his own, and taken the correct decision to leave".

In Tunisia, whose own "Jasmine Revolution" spurred on the Egyptian revolt, people danced in the street and blared their horns.

"It's wonderful! Two dictators have fallen in less than a month," said 23-year-old student Nourredine, referring to January's ouster of Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Qatar, called the power change a "positive and important step towards achieving the aspirations of the Egyptian people for democracy, reform, and a decent life", according to a statement carried by the state news agency QNA.

Great victory

Reactions came from all quarters of the Islamic world.

Iran described Egyptian protesters as having achieved a "great victory".

"The conquest by the will of the great Egyptian nation over the resistance and persistence of officials who were dependent on the world powers is a great victory," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Iran's Arabic-language al-Alam television.

From the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri likewise praised the "the start of the victory of the Egyptian revolution" and celebrations erupted across the territory.

Turkey tapped the Internet that has powered the Egyptian revolt, with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu twittering hopes that Mubarak's departure would produce a new "system" meeting the demands of ordinary Egyptians.

Meanwhile, Israel offered a more cautious reaction to Mubarak's departure, with a government official describing the moment as "too important to draw immediate conclusions about the outcome".

"We hope that the transition to democracy, for Egypt and for its neighbours, will be done smoothly," the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But the official also stressed the need to preserve the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which was signed two years before Mubarak came to power.

Read more on:    hosni mubarak  |  egypt  |  north africa
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