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EU demands 'genuine' reform in Egypt, Tunisia

(UNITED NATIONS) - The European Union on Tuesday demanded "genuine" reform in Tunisia and Egypt and offered help for the North African countries to set up new governments.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told the UN Security Council that it was not yet clear how far the demonstrations sweeping the Middle East demanding "major change" and "fundamental freedoms" would go.

"Our position is clear: the democratic aspirations of citizens must be met through dialogue, genuine political reform, and free and fair elections that are well-prepared," Ashton said.

"These are not just words," the EU's high representative for foreign affairs said, offering Europe's "practical support to the transition processes."

She said she had already spoken to Tunisia's Foreign Minister Ahmed Ounaies and would visit North Africa next week.

"So we will not just help countries to run free and fair elections, but also to fight corruption, make local administration more transparent, ensure independent media and make the justice system fully independent," Ashton said, adding that the events made it imperative for progress in the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

"The critical thing that we want to do is make sure that the Egyptian people are able to have democracy," Ashton told reporters after the meeting.

"For the Egyptian people to work out who takes them forward with that transition, what we have urged is that it is quick and that it moves forward meaningfully," she said.

Setting up the institutions and society "that is able to have democracy, to have human rights, to ensure that you have got in place everything you need, that takes a little bit of time but a lot of support and what we are clear about is we will be offering that support to ensure it can happen," Ashton said.

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