Cameron in Egypt talks with Obama

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David Cameron has discussed the crisis in Egypt with US president Barack Obama after a flight carrying Britons fleeing the stricken country touched down in the UK.

The Foreign Office chartered-flight arrived at Gatwick Airport at around 9pm, with around 70 ex-pats and tourists on board.

As the Britons fled the country, Mr Cameron and Mr Obama spoke on the telephone to reaffirm their desire for the transition to a "broad-based" government to begin immediately.

A Downing St spokesman said: "They agreed that it was vital that the Egyptian government respond to the aspirations of the Egyptian people through reform not repression. Violence was unacceptable.

"The Prime Minister welcomed the restraint shown by the army in policing the most recent protests.

"The leaders agreed that it was for the Egyptian people to determine the leadership of their country. But they were clear that an orderly transition to a broad-based government, with real, visible and meaningful change needed to start now.

"The Prime Minister said that a clear and credible roadmap to change was needed as soon as possible, including a path to free and fair elections.

"They agreed to keep in close touch in the coming days."

Earlier, in an apparent change of tone, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton warned that without orderly change, extremists could derail the transfer of power.

She said: "It's important to support the transition process announced by the Egyptian government actually headed by now-vice president Omar Suleiman."

One passenger arriving back last night, who did not wish to be named, said there had been a sombre mood during the flight.

He said: "It was quite an empty flight, there were a lot of spaces left, children were crying, I think everyone was just glad to be getting out of the place.

"What has annoyed a lot of people is the price for this flight was almost double what other companies are charging.

"My ticket cost £300, but in the end it was worth paying it just to get out.

"Once we arrived we didn't go through the airport in the way that you would normally expect.

"We were told to remain in our seats and officials then got on board before leaving again with some of the passengers.

"When we finally got off we were escorted away from all the other passengers on other flights."

Last night's flight was the second of its type this week.

An FCO spokeswoman said 76 people were on board - including a number of embassy staff.

Egypt saw further dramatic change yesterday after the top leadership body of the country's ruling party, including the president's son Gamal Mubarak, resigned.

Protesters have shrugged off other concessions offered by the regime in the past 12 days of unprecedented street demonstrations, saying they will settle for nothing less than the immediate removal of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's ruler for nearly 30 years.

Yesterday, tens of thousands of people gathered in Tahrir square, waving flags and chanting a day after some 100,000 massed there in an intensified demonstration labelled "the day of departure," in hopes it would be the day Mubarak left office.

Many Egyptians are hoping for a return to normal in the coming days, but those in the square have vowed to stay on.

There were problems elsewhere in the country after an explosion hit a major gas pipeline.

The blast at a gas compressor station in the country's northern Sinai peninsula triggered a huge fire.

There were no immediate reports of casualties and it was not known if gas exports to Israel and Jordan had been discontinued as a result.

The latest blow came as 82-year-old President Mubarak continued to resist calls for his immediate resignation. He has said he will serve out the remaining seven months of his term to ensure a stable process.

He has warned that chaos would ensue if he were to leave now and said he told US president Barack Obama: "You don't understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now."

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Egyptian government had to "do more" than it had so far, but refused to set out a desired timetable for Mr Mubarak's presidency.

Amid some confusion about Washington's stance, he said the US held the same views as the British government.

"They are in the same position as us, respecting the fact that Egypt is a sovereign country but saying, both in our public comments and in all our private discussions with the Egyptian leaders, that you are going to have to do more than you have so far, realistically, looking at it from the outside, in order to draw people in Egypt together," he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

Asked whether Mr Mubarak should remain in office until September, Mr Hague added: "We are not saying he should stay until September, nor are we saying he should resign today.

"We are saying we don't decide who the president of Egypt is on any given day.

"But we can make the case for the leaders in Egypt to show that there is an irrevocable change taking place."