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U.K. Prime Minister Cameron visits Egypt

Feb. 21, 2011 at 9:10 PM   |   Comments

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CAIRO, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Egypt Monday and told military and civilian leaders the country faces a great moment of opportunity.

Cameron arrived in Cairo Monday on the first leg of a tour of the Persian Gulf region, the first world leader to visit the Egyptian capital since the Feb. 11 toppling of President Hosni Mubarak, Sky News reported.

Cameron was to visit Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik and the head of the army council, Mohammed Tantawi, as well as opposition figures who were prominent in the Tahrir Square protests.

"It is important to make sure that this is a genuine transition from military to civilian rule, and to see what friendly countries like Britain and others in Europe can do to help," Cameron told reporters on the flight into Egypt.

Notably absent from Cameron's schedule of meetings was the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group banned by the Mubarak government but now taking an active role in Egyptian politics, The New York Times reported.

Essam el-Erian, a board member of the Brotherhood, said it was "astonishing" Cameron had chosen not to meet with members of the group.

He called Cameron "the prime minister of the colonial occupying power," referring to Britain's position as colonial ruler of Egypt before its independence. Britain gave up its direct rule of Egypt in 1922 but maintained an influential presence in the country until a military coup d'etat in 1952 led to the creation of the Egyptian republic in 1953 and the subsequent withdrawal of the British military in 1956.

Cameron's talks with the current Egyptian leadership are expected to include discussions on whether financial aid from the European Union can help the country's transition to a full civilian democracy, Sky News reported.

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