Egyptian president defends security laws ahead of UK visit


London (AFP) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi defended his sweeping security laws ahead of his arrival in London on Wednesday for talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Sisi has left Cairo for London, where he will hold talks with Cameron on security cooperation on Thursday.

"There is a real roadmap for democracy in Egypt," Sisi told BBC television ahead of his visit.

"The Egyptian people have been calling for change for four years. It is our utmost wish to meet their demands and work towards a better democratic future."

After longtime president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011, Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was voted in, but he was deposed in 2013 by then army chief Sisi after mass street protests.

Sisi was elected to succeed him in 2014 after brutally crushing all forms of opposition -- Islamist supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as secularists and leftists.

"In the past five years, we have been living in a state of revolution. We want stability. We don't want to do this by force or suppression," Sisi said.

"But Egypt faces monumental problems.

"We are plagued by terrorism.

"No one is oppressed in Egypt. But we're living through incredible times."

Asked about human rights, he said: "What about the millions of Egyptians who face hardship every day? What about their human rights? What about the millions of young people who want a job and education?"

Campaign groups including the far-left Stop The War Coalition were to stage a rally outside Cameron's Downing Street office on Wednesday to protest against Sisi's visit.

Meanwhile the London-based Amnesty International group urged Cameron to raise human rights concerns with Sisi.

"President Sisi's arrival in the UK is another key test of whether David Cameron is prepared to do more than roll out red carpets for authoritarian leaders," said its UK director Kate Allen.

"There have been horrifying mass death sentences since President Sisi came to power -- some after grossly unfair trials -- and thousands have been detained in an attempt to quash all opposition."

Cameron and Sisi spoke by telephone on Tuesday, Downing Street said, where they discussed the Russian plane crash in Egypt's Sinai peninsula.

"The prime minister said he looked forward to welcoming President Sisi to Downing Street on Thursday when they could talk further about the ongoing investigation and security cooperation between both countries," a spokeswoman said.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Sisi ahead of his visit called for NATO powers including Britain to help rebuild Libya, beset by violence since an uprising backed by the Western military alliance toppled leader Moamer Kadhafi.

"It was a mission that was not completely accomplished," he was quoted as saying.

"We need to stop the flow of funds and weapons and foreign fighters to the extremists. All the members of NATO -– including Britain –- who took part in the mission to overthrow Kadhafi need to give their help," Sisi said.