Rice urges Egypt to reform its democracy

The US is concerned about the progress of democratic reform in Egypt, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said after talks with Egypt's leaders.

Rice urges Egypt to reform its democracy

Ms Rice said she told President Hosni Mubarakof her concerns about planned constitutional changes, due to be voted on in areferendum on Monday.

Opposition groups say the amendments, whichinclude a ban on parties based on religion, will limit freedoms.

Mr Mubarak says reform is vital to tackleterrorism and sectarian tension.

Ms Rice visited Egypt as part of her attemptsto press pro-American Arab states to do more to restart the stalled Middle Eastpeace process.

Hopes and concerns

But her talks came amid domestic anger at theplanned changes to Egypt's constitution, as well as apparent irritation fromthe Egyptian authorities at what they see as outside interference in theiraffairs.

On her way to Egypt, Ms Riceexpressed concern at the planned changes, saying there was a danger that theprocess would not give a voice to all Egyptians.

Correspondents say she appeared to tone downher comments on Sunday when she addressed a joint news conference in Aswan withEgyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.

"I've made my concerns known, as well asmy hopes, for continued reform here in Egypt," she said.

"The process of reform is difficult -it's going to have its ups and downs," said Ms Rice, adding that the issuewas discussed in a "mutually respectful" way.

Mr Abul Gheit said the proposed changes wereneeded in a country that faced terror threats from "a number of hardlinerand extremist types".

Ahead of his talks with Ms Rice, PresidentMubarak had robustly defended Egypt's position, saying his government would notbend to outside "pressure, dictation or prerequisites".

Difficult position

As well as banning the creation of politicalparties based on religion, the proposed amendments allow for the adoption of anew election law.

They would permit thepresident to dissolve parliament unilaterally and do away with the need forjudicial supervision of every ballot box.

If approved, the changes will also allow anew anti-terrorism law to be drafted to replace the emergency legislation thathas been in place since 1981, when Mr Mubarak first became president followingthe assassination of Anwar Sadat.

The government says the changes will boostdemocratic practice in the county.

But the opposition, which includes theillegal but popular Muslim Brotherhood, say the changes will turn Egypt into apolice state and are boycotting the referendum.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16