BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union called for an orderly transition to a broad-based government in Egypt on Monday, saying democratic reforms were needed to create the conditions for free and fair elections. The statement stopped short of calling for an immediate poll in Egypt, where a presidential election is scheduled for September. But it mirrored a White House statement on Sunday calling for a transition to a more responsive government. EU foreign ministers said they wanted to see an orderly transition to a broad-based government, leading to a genuine process of essential democratic reforms. The 27 ministers added that transition in the Arab worlds most populous country should respect the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, paving the way for free and fair elections. President Hosni Mubarak, an ally of the United States and Europe, has faced a week of protests by tens of thousands of demonstrators throughout the country calling for him to step down after nearly 30 years in power. About 140 people have been killed in clashes with security forces, especially the police, in scenes that have overturned Egypts standing as a stable country, a promising emerging market and an attractive tourist destination. The EU statement expressed regret at the violence and loss of life during the unrest and urged the government to ensure security and property of citizens and an end to looting. The speed with which popular revolt has spread from Tunisia - where the president was forced to flee on Jan. 14 - to Egypt has surprised political analysts and left world leaders scrambling to assess how best to respond to the crisis. Officials say EU states are divided, with some believing Mubarak should step down immediately while others argue he should be given time to create better conditions for an orderly and democratic transition of power. US President Barack Obama spoke with Britains David Cameron and Germanys Angela Merkel on Sunday and issued a statement afterwards calling for political reform in Egypt, while stopping short of urging Mubarak to leave. Mondays EU statement reflected a joint position on Saturday by the blocs three biggest foreign policy players - France, German and Britain - which called on Mubarak to launch a process of political transformation to produce a more broad-based government and free and fair elections. Earlier on Monday, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton urged Egyptian authorities to hold talks with opposition groups, release demonstrators and take steps towards democracy to end the unrest that has convulsed the country of 80 million people. Ashton said it was essential all sides, including the police, showed restraint in order to avoid further bloodshed. We urge the authorities to release immediately all peaceful demonstrators who are in detention, she told reporters. There needs to be a peaceful way forward and an open and serious dialogue with the opposition parties and all parts of civil society and we believe it needs to happen now. Ashton said Egyptians had legitimate grievances and the authorities had to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights. She did not mention Mubarak by name. Mubarak appointed a new interior minister on Monday as part of an overhauled cabinet. The move appeared designed to defuse the most serious challenge to his rule in three decades, but there was no let up in the popular unrest.