Erdogan Tells Mubarak to Meet Call for Change


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Tuesday to meet his people's "desire for change" as he voiced support for democratic reform in the whole Middle East.

Erdogan also postponed an upcoming visit to Egypt because of the turmoil gripping the country.

In a weekly speech to his party's lawmakers in parliament, Erdogan said he was sending "very sincere advice, a very sincere warning" to Mubarak.

"Hear the cry of the people and their extremely humane demands. Meet the people's desire for change without hesitation ... In today's world, freedoms cannot be postponed or overlooked," Erdogan said.

"We hope that those disturbances (in Egypt) will end as soon as possible ... and the legitimate and reasonable demands of the people will be met," he added.

Erdogan, who has won widespread popularity in the Arab world with frequent outbursts against Israel, struck also an emotional note, urging Mubarak to consider how he would be remembered after his death.

"We are all mortals ... What matters is to be remembered with respect ... We should listen to the voice of our conscience and the voice of our people and be ready either for their good prayers or curses," he said.

Speaking to reporters later, Erdogan said he had postponed a visit to Egypt, which had been scheduled for February 8-9, adding that he would make the trip when the situation in the country "returns to normal."

Erdogan spoke as Egyptians massed for the biggest day of protests in their campaign to oust Mubarak.

He appealed also to Tunisia's interim government, which took office last month after violent protests ousted strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to press ahead with reform and ensure "the widest possible inclusion and representation" in politics.

"Turkey will stand by Tunisia and the Tunisian people in this critical process," he said.

Heading an Islamist-rooted party that has sought closer ties with the Arab world, Erdogan also voiced support for broader democratic changes in the Middle East to achieve a "more libertarian, fairer and more prosperous future for the people."

"We have never believed that democracy will produce chaos and radicalism. Only advanced democracy can ensure moderation, tolerance and reconciliation," he said.

"One should never fear free, fair and democratic elections and the will of the people."

He gave as an example his Justice and Development Party, the moderate offshoot of a banned Islamist movement, which came to power in 2002 and was re-elected four years later despite frequent tensions with the staunchly secularist military and its supporters.

"Struggling for rights and freedoms is everybody's most natural right, but (on the condition of) not using violence ... As Turkey, we will always share the feelings of our brothers and do what is up to us," he said.

The uprising in Tunisia has sent shockwaves across the Middle East, sparking anti-government protests also in Algeria, Jordan, Sudan, Oman, Morocco and Yemen.

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