G8 commits $20bn to 'Arab Spring'

Western economies to mobilise "substantial bilateral support", both economic and political, for post-autocratic nations.

    The Group of Eight (G8) countries will pledge $20bn in aid to post-autocratic Arab countries that have toppled heads of state and moved towards democracy, according to European officials.

    The so-called "Arab Spring" has been a major talking point at this week's G8 summit in France, which brings together the leaders from the US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

    A draft version of the summit statement read: "We, members of the G8, strongly support the aspirations of the Arab Spring as well as those of the Iranian people."

    "Multilateral development banks could provide over $20bn, including 3.5bn euros from the European Investment Bank, for Egypt and Tunisia for 2011-2013, in support of suitable reform efforts."

    The document also stated G8 countries' readiness "to mobilise substantial bilateral support to scale-up this effort. We welcome support from other bilateral partners, including from the region."

    While the $20bn would add a strong boost to the countries' economies, Al Jazeera's Jackie Rowland pointed out that the G8 had failed in the past to fulfill aid commitments.

    She said that by the end of the conference, leaders were expected to publicly admit that neglect.

    "We're expecting them to admit that there's been a shortfall in the aid that was promised... and the aid that was actually delivered," our correspondent said.

    Barack Obama, the US president, speaking at a joint press conference with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, described the economic commitment as a partner to political change.

    He said: "Democratic transition... [must be] accompanied by economic growth."

    But G8 support is not limited to economic aid. According to the statement, the powerful group is also discussing other intervention tactics for multiple "Arab Spring" countries.

    Among its statements are a commitment to tell Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan president, that he has lost all legitimacy and must step down, condemnation of "the use of violence in response to peaceful protest throughout Yemen", and that the G8 would "consider action in the United Nations Security Council" if Syria does not stop using force against protesters.

    The statement adds: "We call on the Syrian leadership to immediately stop using force and intimidation against the Syrian people and to respond to their legitimate demands for freedom of expression and universal rights and aspirations. We also call for the release of all political prisoners in Syria."

    At the Friday press conference, Obama committed the group to aiding in the ousting of Libya's Gaddafi.

    "We agreed that we have made progress on our Libya campaign, but that meeting the UN mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Gaddafi remains in Libya, directing his forces... and we are joined in [our] resolve to finish the job," he said.

    While the meeting has focused on upheaval in the Arab world, the newly inaugurated Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara said on Friday that his country alone needed 15-20bn euros in order to recover from the country's own violent struggle.

    Ouattara said that Sarkozy had already promised his country two billion euros in debt releif, but he said he would ask Obama for "a little bit more".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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