CAIRO (Reuters) - The prime minister, visiting Egypt on Monday on the first trip by a foreign leader since President Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow, will push for an end to emergency law but will not meet Islamists.
The revolt in Egypt and uprisings across the region have prompted Western governments to rethink their policies of supporting autocratic leaders, but raised concerns about the potential rise of Islamist groups in their place.
Egypt is now governed by a military council, led by veteran Defence Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who is on the list of officials Prime Minister David Cameron will be meeting.
“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 told reporters on the plane before landing in Cairo.
He will also meet members of the anti-Mubarak opposition. But an official travelling with Cameron said he would not meet members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most organised political grouping.
British officials say it would be a positive sign to meet other, less organised opposition groups than the Brotherhood, to highlight the fact that Islamists are not the only alternative to Mubarak.
“We have got very important trading relationships we want to expand. We have got a very important security relationship, not least in combating extremist terror, that we need to sharpen and increase,” Cameron said.
A British official said Cameron would push for an end to emergency laws that were in place during Mubarak’s 30-year rule and were used to stifle dissent. Lifting the emergency laws has been one of the main demands of the protesters.
British officials said they saw British investment in Egypt increasing, and that this was an important way to help create economic opportunities and promote stability.
Uprisings that began with the toppling of Tunisia’s leader in January have spread like wildfire across the Middle East, including to Egypt’s neighbour Libya. More than 200 people have been killed as veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi tries to crush a popular revolt.
“What is happening in Libya is completely appalling and unacceptable as the regime is using the most vicious forms of repression,” Cameron said.
Dozens of people were reported killed in Tripoli overnight as anti-government protests reached the Libyan capital for the first time.
Reporting Mohammed Abbas, Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Mark Trevelyan