29 MAY 2011
The Group of Eight promised tens of billions of dollars in aid to Tunisia and Egypt this week and held out the prospect of even more to help the "Arab Spring" and the new democracies emerging from popular uprisings.
Likening it to the fall of the Berlin Wall that changed Europe, G8 leaders ending an annual summit in France launched a partnership for North Africa and the Middle East that ties aid and development credits to political and economic reforms by states which have thrown off autocratic rulers.
Most is in the form of loans, rather than outright grants, to the two countries in the vanguard of protest movements that have swept the Arab world, from the Atlantic to the Gulf.
Egypt and Tunisia are planning to hold free elections this year.
Summit host French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on top of $20-billion of credits provided by the World Bank and similar regional lenders dominated by the major powers, there would be as much again from other sources - $10-billion from oil-rich Gulf Arab states and $10-billion in bilateral aid.
In a statement after the two-day summit in the northern French seaside resort of Deauville, the G8 leaders said they "strongly support the aspirations of the Arab Spring as well as those of the Iranian people".
"Changes under way in the Middle East and North Africa are historic and have the potential to open the door to the kind of transformation that occurred in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall."
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