Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declined to call for the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, saying the U.S. and Europe had considered him a “reference point” and “the wisest man” in the Middle East.
Asked directly if the time had come for Mubarak to step aside, Berlusconi said he hoped for “continuity in the government.”
Western leaders want a “more democratic system without ruptures with a president like Mubarak that all the Western hemisphere, including the U.S., had considered the wisest man and a reference point in all of the Middle East,” Berlusconi said on arriving at a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels today.
Mubarak has replaced ministers, promised free elections and said he’ll step down in September, without assuaging protesters who say his 30 years in power must end now.
Berlusconi sought to play down the scale of the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, saying there were “really few” demonstrators considering Egypt’s population of 80 million.
At home, Berlusconi is under investigation for his alleged involvement with an underage prostitute and faces possible charges of abuse of power for calling the police to inquire about the girl, whom he referred to as a relative of Mubarak.
The probe is known as Rubygate after the nickname of the young woman at its center. The woman, who turned 18 this month, is Moroccan and not related to the Egyptian leader.
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