By Joseph Willits
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After violent clashes in Egypt, leaving five dead and nearly a thousand injured, William Hague has stated that Britain will not "take sides", and reaffirmed his optimism for the progress of the Arab Spring. Although the violence in Egypt was of "great concern", the Foreign Secretary told John Humphrys on Radio 4's Today Programme, that the interviewer was "going too far by saying hopes are fading for democracy in the Arab world". A new Libyan government, an election in Tunisia, "important reforms" in Morocco and Jordan, were all symbolic of change and progress made in the region, he said.
Over the weekend, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to protest against military rule in the country, and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) are now in charge post-Mubarak. The protestors once again flooded into Tahrir Square in Cairo, where Egyptians previously gathered in solidarity against Mubarak's rule, and celebrated his ousting from power. The Egyptian army used teargas, batons, and rubber bullets, in an attempt to remove renewed protest in Tahrir Square, where critics had pledged to remain until the end of military rule. Violence ensued across much of Egypt, in some of the country's worst clashes since Mubarak's removal in February.
This morning Hague, anxious not to "take sides", was in agreement with many of the demands of the critics of military rule. He said:
"We do want to see in Egypt a completion of transfer to civilian rule, we do want to see a constitution accountability of security forces enshrined in future laws or future constitutions. "
It is "important" and "the way forward" for Egypt, said Hague, "that elections take place" and "that there is the speediest possible transition to civilian democratic rule in Egypt." In order to answer the calls of protestors, the ruling military council should act:
"They should end the state of emergency … end the detention of protesters, and particularly the trial of civilians in military courts. They must tackle extremism and sectarianism in Egypt, and have some bold action on economic reform."
Coming elections in Egypt, which have since been thrown into doubt, with many candidates pulling their campaigns, had to be "free and fair", said Hague. If not, the situation in Egypt would worsen:
“I don’t think that involves today the handover of powers to unformed authorities – I think the elections have to take place, so whoever follows the military does have the democratic legitimacy and authority of having been elected. If the revolution in Egypt was about anything it was presumably about that.”
Britian was playing a role in the Egyptian elections, he said, by funding an NGO which provides necessary political observers.