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Gorbachev backs Egypt protesters
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose reforms helped lead to the fall of communism, has thrown his weight behind the pro-democracy protests in Egypt, saying they were "well-grounded and of vital importance".
"I am on the protesters' side," the 80-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner said.
His comments came during the third consecutive day of violent clashes in Cairo between protesters and security forces.
Demonstrators are calling for a "second revolution" to force out the generals who have failed to stabilise the country, salvage the economy or bring democracy since the ousting of authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.
Mr Gorbachev said leaders across the Arab world were now faced with rising calls for democracy because they had been in power for too long and had created situations where people's voices had not been heard.
"It's clear no-one provoked them, that this conflict appeared out of the blue," he said of the demonstrators. "Things were building up, and it all means that democracy - the way they had it - did not really work."
He said, however, that there was no one-size-fits-all solution for the region.
"I don't think there will be a single model for all (the protests) developing in those countries..." Mr Gorbachev said. "Each country has its own history, culture, experience - you can't ignore that."
Mr Gorbachev, whose policies of openness brought the democratic changes that led - against his will - to the 1991 Soviet collapse, was in Berlin to announce that the city would host the 2012 awards that bear his name.
The Mikhail Gorbachev Award, which is given to people who bring change to the world, will this year focus on addressing the sustainability of the world's megacities and be presented in March.