The mass protests against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are drawing mixed reactions in the region.
In Iran, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry called on Egyptian authorities to follow what he called the “rightful demands” of the people and avoid any violence against them. The spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said Saturday that the Egyptian protests are based in Islam and aimed at gaining justice. He made no reference to the Iranian government’s crackdowns on opposition.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah criticized the protesters and expressed support for Mr. Mubarak. The state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted King Abdullah calling the organizers of the demonstrations “infiltrators” and accusing them of trying to destabilize Egypt in the name of freedom of expression. The report said the Saudi king made the comments in a phone call to the Egyptian president.
Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt are key allies of the United States, which has called on President Mubarak to fulfill his promises of reform and refrain from violence against the demonstrators.
Israel, another key U.S. ally in the region, was said to be monitoring the situation in Egypt, although its officials are not making public statements.
News reports highlighted concerns that the unrest could threaten Israel’s ties with Egypt, which has played a major role as a regional mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Israeli reports say if Egypt’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood were to gain power in the turmoil, that could strengthen militant group Hamas, the brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot in the Gaza Strip. Hamas draws its support from Iran, Syria and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah, while the rival Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, receive support from the West.
The African Union also expressed concern about Egypt’s political unrest. The French news agency, AFP, quoted the head of the AU commission, Jean Ping, as saying the situation is “worrying” after protests in Tunisia.
View the slide show of anti-government protests in Egypt
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
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