Merkel tells Mursi to ensure dialogue in Egypt

BERLIN (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the visiting Egyptian president on Wednesday to ensure constant dialogue as his country grapples with a political crisis that has sparked deadly unrest.

Dr Merkel told a joint press conference in Berlin with President Mohamed Mursi that Germany wanted a successful transformation process in Egypt, where Mr Mursi took over last year, and was ready to help.

"From my side I made it clear that there are different things that are very important for us," she said, adding: "One is that dialogue with all political forces in Egypt is always available."

"That the different political forces can make a contribution, that human rights in Egypt are observed and that of course also religious freedom can be experienced," she added.

The visit came as Egyptian opposition leaders sought urgent talks on the political crisis, as fresh violence killed two more people in Cairo after nearly a week of violence.

Dr Merkel said Mr Mursi's visit - his first to Europe's biggest economy since his election in June - was appreciated, albeit shortened, given the "not easy" political situation at home, and described Egypt as an "important voice" in the Middle East peace process.

It had originally been scheduled to last two days.

France's presidency said on Tuesday that Mr Mursi had postponed a visit to Paris for later in the week.

Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Mursi told reporters that Egypt would be a constitutional state which allowed the exchange of opinions.

He also spoke of ties with Germany based on respect of different interests "without interference in domestic affairs".

Mr Mursi also insisted that he had nothing against Judaism and that comments on Israel attributed to him before he was elected had been "taken out of their context".

"I am not against Judaism as a religion, I am not against the Jews who practise their religion," he said.

According to a TV clip released by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Mr Mursi refers in a 2010 interview to "occupiers of Palestine" as "blood suckers and war mongers, and descendants of pigs and apes." Mr Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading figure in the National Salvation Front, called on Wednesday for talks just two days after the opposition had rejected Morsi's appeal for dialogue.

The latest unrest began with protests marking the second anniversary of the Egyptian uprising, and took a violent turn at the weekend after 21 residents of Port Said were sentenced to death over football-related violence.

Anger on the streets has been directed primarily at Mr Mursi, who is accused of betraying the revolution that brought him to power and of consolidating power in the hands of his Muslim Brotherhood.

According to German media reports, the Egyptian leader came to Berlin to seek debt relief as well as possible German investment to help the country's struggling economy.

Ahead of Mr Mursi's arrival, Germany's foreign minister warned that German financial aid to Egypt was contingent upon democratic progress.

Berlin's offer of help "depends on advances in the democratic development in Egypt", Mr Guido Westerwelle said on ARD public television.

After meeting Dr Merkel, Mr Mursi was due to take part in a conference with German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler and the president of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In December Germany announced it had postponed debt relief for Egypt of up to 240 million euros (S$402 million) due to concerns about its commitment to democracy.

Germany is Egypt's third biggest trading partner.