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Mideast leaders see people power good -- for Egypt

Leaders of the Middle East welcome Egypt's revolution - so long as it stays there

AFP , Saturday 12 Feb 2011
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Middle East leaders on Saturday welcomed the "people power" revolt which toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, fixing their eyes firmly on Cairo away from rumblings amongst some of their own people.

In Iraq the office of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki saw Mubarak's overthrow as "a step in the right direction because it came in response to the desire and will of the people for change."

The office of radical Shia cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr said it was a warning to those leaders who ignored their people.

"What happened in Egypt is a lesson and the realisation of the will of the Egyptian people," Sadr's office said in a statement. "They set an example of steadfastness, sacrifice and unity."

In Bahrain, which has seen sporadic protests by the majority Shia against the ruling Sunni elite, the state news agency BNA said the country "confirms its support and respect to the choices of the Egyptian people... and its full confidence in the ability of (Egypt's) Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to implement security and stability and manage the country's affairs."

Mubarak was ousted Friday after 30 years of rule, handing power to the military after more than a million people took to the streets in an 18-day uprising in which about 300 people died, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.

Yemen, whose President Ali Abdallah Saleh has been in power for 32 years, said on Saturday it "respects the choice and will of the brotherly Egyptian people".

A government official, in the statement on the official news agency Saba, added that Sanaa had confidence in the Egyptian armed forces to lead the country so "the Egyptian people can realise their aspirations for liberty, democracy and security."

Length of rule by Saleh is not the only outward similarity to the situation in Egypt.

On Friday night, as Mubarak quit power, several thousand demonstrators headed into Sanaa's main square -- like Cairo's called Tahrir Square -- to celebrate the Egyptian leader's departure and call for Saleh to give up power.

Reaction in non-Arab, regional heavyweight, Iran came in a sharp look overseas.

"The events in Tunisia and Egypt is an alarm bell for despotic leaders who for years trampled their people and ignored their real demands only to preserve their own interests," Ali Larijani, speaker of Iran's conservative parliament, said in a statement carried by the ISNA news agency.

It was Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution" which ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January that spurred on the Egyptian revolt.

Iran's support for Arab uprisings comes despite its own crackdown on hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to protest against official results giving President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term in a June 2009 presidential election.

Dozens of Iranians were killed, hundreds wounded and scores arrested by security forces during the protests which shook the pillars of its regime.

In Tunis on Saturday, people danced in the street and blared their horns at news of Mubarak's departure from Cairo.

"It's wonderful! Two dictators have fallen in less than a month," said 23-year-old student Nourredine.

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

Israel offered a more concerned reaction, 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.

Jordan, the only other Arab country to have a peace agreement with the Israeli state, said on Saturday that it hoped for a "rapid return to calm and stability."

Qatar meanwhile 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.

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