Egypt rejects EU rights vote
Egypt rejects EU rights vote
Saturday, January 19,2008 12:07
By Mona Salem

Egypt has angrily rejected a European parliament resolution criticising its human rights record, with Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit saying it revealed both arrogance and ignorance.

Parliament speaker Fathi Surur, quoted by the press, said Egypt will boycott a European Union (EU) meeting on Sunday in Brussels to protest against yesterday’s vote.

"Egypt totally rejects attempts by anyone who takes it upon himself to be an investigator of human rights in Egypt," Abul Gheit said in remarks carried by MENA news agency.

"The resolution reveals the (European) assembly’s ignorance of the situation in Egypt...as well as ignorance of the political, economic and social reforms that Egypt has witnessed in recent years," he said. "Egypt does not need lessons from anyone, particularly if this party is arrogant and ignorant."

Yesterday, 52 out of 59 European lawmakers present at the European assembly in Strasbourg voted in favour of a resolution, slamming Egypt over the status of religious minorities, alleged torture practices and a decades-long state of emergency.

Seven EU MPs abstained from the vote which came as Cairo threatened to sever ties with the European assembly and called in EU ambassadors to complain.

The resolution also called for the immediate release of dissident Ayman Nur, who was jailed for five years in December 2005 for fraud after mounting a virulent campaign against President Hosni Mubarak in presidential elections.

Surur had threatened on Wednesday to cut links with the European parliament over the resolution. "The People’s Assembly (Egypt’s lower house) will consider cutting ties with the European Parliament...as long as it continues to use the language of commands and condescension," he told MENA.

Egyptian newspapers quoted today Surur as saying that the president of parliament’s commission on national security, Mohammed Bassiouni, will not now attend a Euro-Mediterranean meeting set for Sunday.

Bassiouni "will not be sent to Sunday’s meeting in Brussels and Egypt will boycott the meeting in a sign of protest," Surur said.

Egypt was also considering asking the union of Muslim parliaments to issue a formal protest when it meets later this month, MENA quoted the Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

The spokesman rejected European criticism of the status of religious minorities such as Christian Copts in Egypt, saying Europe should be more concerned about its own record in dealing with Muslims and minorities.

He denounced what he said was the "spread of hatred for foreigners and discrimination against Muslims across Europe," MENA reported.

The spokesman also rejected a reference in the European resolution which called on Cairo to exert more effort to stamp out smuggling into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Both the United States and Israel have put pressure on Egypt, accusing it of not doing enough to stop the flow of weapons from entering the Palestinian territory through tunnels under the border with Egypt.

The Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman said that raising this issue "cast doubts" over the aims of the European resolution.

International organisations have repeatedly expressed concern about human rights in Egypt, including continued crackdowns on political dissent and the state of emergency in effect since 1981.

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