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Germany

Germany commends Arab revolutions, pledges aid to promote democracy

Berlin has been vocal in welcoming revolution in the Arab world. German leaders have compared the Egyptian president's ouster to the fall of the Iron Curtain and have pledged new aid to promote democracy in Tunisia.

Map of Middle East and North Africa

Germany promised to work with interim leaders

The German government has welcomed the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, pledging Saturday to do its part in establishing democratic rule in the two countries.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Saturday during his visit to Tunisia that the country's democratic revolution was "irreversible."

If Tunisia succeeds in democratizing, it would become "an example to other countries in the Arab world," added Westerwelle, who pledged additional aid money from Germany.

German Minister of Foreign Guido Westerwelle shakes hands with Tunisian Human Rights League's Mokhtar Trifi

Westerwelle told Trifi Germany would provide its know-how to help with Tunisia's elections

Westerwelle arrived in Tunis earlier on Saturday, where the Foreign Ministry said he was to meet with interim Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi and heads of various commissions tasked with implementing political reform and investigating the corruption of the past regime.

"The aim of Minister Westerwelle's visit is to give a clear signal that Germany and Europe are ready to assist Tunisia in this ongoing period of transformation," Germany's Foreign Ministry said.

Aid to Tunisia

Tunisian League of Human Rights President Mokhtar Trifi told reporters on Saturday that Westerwelle had offered Germany's expertise and logistical assistance to ensure democratic elections in Tunisia.

Westerwelle has called on the international community not to be distracted from Tunisia's needs by recent events in Egypt, where embattled President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Friday after 18 days of sustained protests.

Berlin has pledged 3 million euros ($4 million) to Tunisia as a "democracy promotion fund," as well as 500,000 euros to create student-exchange scholarships.

Westerwelle urged other countries to join Germany in supporting Tunisia, which in January spurred pro-democratic public protests across the Arab world with a grassroots movement that led to the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Merkel praises protests

Egyptians in Berlin parade down a street holding the Egyptian flag

Even Egyptians living in Berlin took to the streets to celebrate Mubarak's departure

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday that leaders in the Arab world should get accustomed to demands from their citizens for basic human rights.

In her weekly video podcast, Merkel said recent protests in Arab capitals reminded her of those which "overthrew the dictatorships of eastern Europe" two decades ago.

In the podcast, which was recorded before Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down Friday, Merkel said protestors in Tunis and Cairo had echoed the demands for freedom of those who brought down the Iron Curtain.

"The people are rising up, not just in Europe but in other parts of the world, too," said the chancellor, who was raised in former communist East Germany. According to Merkel, the protests showed that "the people will no longer allow themselves to be stopped from speaking."

Merkel added that it was up to Arabs to determine the reforms they wanted, but that respect for basic human rights such as freedom of expression was a must and "that begins with ensuring that the dignity of every single human is sacrosanct."

Building democracy

Additionally, Merkel said the shift in the Arab world created new challenges for Europe, which would be working more closely with the transitioning countries.

"I believe that's our responsibility because there can only be peace and security for us when everyone on earth has the opportunity for a good life," she said.

Egyptians pray next army armored vehicles outside the Egyptian Museum near Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo

Many protesters in Cairo say they would stay put until all their demands for reform are answered

On Friday, at the news of Mubarak's ouster, Merkel told reporters that she "rejoiced" together with the Egyptian people.

"I call on those who now bear the responsibility and will bear the responsibility to make the developments in Egypt irreversible," she said in Berlin, where hundreds of Egyptians had gathered to celebrate the succeeded revolution in front of the city's Brandenburg Gate.

Author: David Levitz (AFP, AP, dpa)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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