UPDATE 1-EU pledges up to 700 million euros in aid to Egypt
BRUSSELS - The European Union offered Egypt economic aid of up to 700 million euros ($902 million) on Thursday, showing how European governments are trying to build ties with the Islamist rulers brought to power in Egypt's first free elections.
The pledge came as Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi made his first trip to Europe since his election in June, hoping to reassure the EU of his democratic credentials and win economic aid as he looks to revive the broken economy.
He rose to power under the Muslim Brotherhood, which is opposed to Israel and with which Washington only opened formal relations last year. Mursi said on Thursday he backed peaceful protest but not attacks on embassies after Egyptians angry at a film deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammad climbed into the U.S. embassy in Cairo and tore down the American flag.
Europe wants to keep Egypt as a firm ally of the West after the collapse of Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian rule last year, and hopes Cairo can turn into an example in a region that has seen tumultuous change since the Arab Spring began in 2011.
"Egypt is a key country in a region that is so close to and important for Europe," said Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, which represents EU governments. "Egypt's success would have positive repercussions on the region as a whole." (...)