Cameron in joint call with European leaders for Mubarak to step down

PRIME Minister David Cameron has joined other European leaders in putting pressure on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to give up power after 30 years amid escalating violence between opponents and supporters.

Around 180 British tourists were being flown home last night on a plane chartered by the Foreign Office to help UK nationals flee Cairo, where heavy gunfire and violence erupted again. At least eight people have been killed in the violence since Wednesday.

A second rescue plane will also be flying out of strife-torn Cairo tomorrow. Britons "without a pressing need" to be in Cairo, Alexandria or Suez have been urged to leave .

In a joint statement, Mr Cameron and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain warned that the process of transition to a new, broad-based government in Egypt "must start now".

"We are watching with utmost concern the deteriorating situation in Egypt," the five European leaders said yesterday.

There have been reports of widespread arson and looting across Cairo, and army tanks moved in yesterday to separate rival groups of demonstrators. Pro-Mubarak gangs were also said to be attacking foreign human rights workers and journalists, some of whom were rounded up by the army.

Foreign Secretary William Hague described the scenes as "reprehensible".

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq appeared on state TV to offer his apologies for the violence and pledge: "Everything that happened yesterday will be investigated, so that everyone knows who was behind it."

The country's vice president Omar Suleiman has warned, however, against foreign interference in Egypt's internal affairs.