Key rejects criticism over Mubarak comments

Prime Minister John Key has rejected claims he was placing Western interests above the rights of Egyptian people by not calling for Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Mubarak announced his resignation on Saturday (NZT) after massive protests against his rule, following an uprising in Tunisia.

When asked two weeks ago whether he was calling for Mubarak to go, Mr Key answered "no", and noted that Egypt had been the only Arab country to recognise Israel.

Critics have said that, in not calling for Mubarak's resignation, he was placing Western interests above the freedom of the Egyptian people, but Mr Key rejected that today.

"We wouldn't accept that," Mr Key told Breakfast this morning.

"In the end it's for Egyptians to decide and our main issue now is we want to see that democracy restored."

Mr Key also reiterated the successes of Mubarak, saying that, with regard to Israel, he had done a "good job".

"No one's arguing that Mubarak's been perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but he has been an important player in the Middle East in trying to keep peace with Israel and that's very important.

However, Mr Key said Mubarak's resignation should be welcomed.

"If you hadn't seen Mubarak step down then I suspect those protests would have morphed into something a lot more ugly," he said.

"We just hope that the military observe what they've said, six months to get to democratic elections, important that democracy is in place in Egypt, and that Egyptians feel that they can elect on a free and fair basis their representatives."

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