Clinton sounds warning on Egypt transition

Munich (Germany), Feb 5 (AFP) US Secretary of StateHillary Clinton today called for international support forEgypt''s transition to democracy as she warned of extremistforces that might try to derail it.

Speaking to an international security conference inMunich, Germany, Clinton also called for support toward openand accountable governments across the Middle East despite theshort-term risks of chaos and instability.

The chief US diplomat praised the restraint of Egyptiansecurity forces in largely peaceful mass protests yesterday.

A transition in Egypt "will become immeasurably harder ifthere is not restraint by government and security forces, andwe thankfully saw that yesterday with the very large butpeaceful demonstration," she said.

Clinton, who was addressing the Munich SecurityConference ahead a Middle East Quartet meeting on thePalestinian-Israeli deadlock, also worried about other threatsto stability, referring to the attack on a gas pipeline.

Unknown saboteurs attacked an Egyptian pipeline supplyinggas to Jordan, forcing authorities to switch off gas supplyfrom a twin pipeline to Israel, an official told AFP.

"There are lot of actions that are out of anyone''scontrol in any position of responsibility and leadershipinside Egypt and outside Egypt," the chief US diplomat said.

"There are forces at work in any society, andparticularly one that is facing these kinds of challenges thatwill try to derail or overtake the process to pursue their ownspecific agenda," Clinton said.

This, she said, is "why I think it is important tosupport the transition process announced by the Egyptiangovernment, actually headed by now vice president OmarSuleiman."

Saying proper reforms take "some time," her comments wereless insistent than those she and other officials in PresidentBarack Obama''s administration made in the past week demandingthe transition start "now" and "immediately".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also sounded a note ofcaution against hurrying the transition, citing her ownexperience at the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 from thecommunist side of the Cold War barrier.

"Even though it is not directly comparable (with Egypt),we didn''t want to wait a single day ... for reunification,"Merkel said of her fellow East Germans.

"But when it took place in October (1990) and we saw thescale of the necessary transition we were quite happy thatsome people had prepared things properly."

British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed, but warnedthat the longer a power transition in Egypt took, the greaterthe risk of a government "that we wouldn''t welcome." (AFP)

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