G8 pledge $20bn to Arab states as unrest continues

THE G8 leaders promised $20 billion (€14bn) in aid to Tunisia and Egypt yesterday and held out the prospect of billions more to foster the Arab Spring and the new democracies emerging from popular uprisings.

Unrest in Syria and Yemen is intensifying, with fears that the latter may be descending into civil war.

Likening Arab uprisings 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 progress on political and economic reforms by states which have thrown off autocratic rulers.

Most is in the form of loans rather than outright grants.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that on top of $20bn of credits provided by the World Bank and similar regional lenders dominated by the major powers, there would be $10bn from oil-rich Gulf Arab states and $10bn from other governments.

The G8 leaders signalled they “strongly support the aspirations of the Arab Spring as well as those of the Iranian people.”

Syrian protesters defied a nationwide crackdown by security forces yesterday, witnesses said, as world leaders voiced outrage at President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody suppression of the unrest.

Security forces killed two demonstrators in the Qatana suburb of Damascus and fired at protesters calling for the “overthrow of the regime” in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor, a rights group and residents said.

Small demonstrations also broke out in the Damascus districts of Barzeh, Rukn al-Din and Qaboun, the suburbs of Saqba and Hajar al-Aswad, and in Latakia on the coast and Deraa in the south.

Human rights activists said protests flared in the eastern cities of Albu Kamal, where people burned pictures of Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who this week threw his weight behind Assad.

Residents said gunfire was also heard in the central city of Homs as thousands gathered despite a heavy security presence, while five protesters were wounded by security forces’ shooting in Zabadani, a western town near the Lebanese border.

Meanwhile, fighting that rocked the Yemeni capital Sanaa for the past five days spread as Yemeni tribesmen opposed to the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh seized a Republican Guard military camp in battles that left dozens dead and prompted airstrikes by government warplanes, according to a tribal leader.

At least 109 people have been killed by this week’s street battles in Sanaa between security forces loyal to Saleh and fighters from Yemen’s most powerful tribal confederation, the Hashid, which has joined the popular uprising against the longtime ruler. The fighting has hiked fears the country could be thrown into civil war as Saleh clings to power in the face of months of peaceful protests demanding his ouster.

Unity in anti-Gaddafi battle

THE United States and France are united in their resolve to finish the job in Libya, US President Barack Obama said yesterday as NATO reported that Gaddafi’s forces had laid landmines in Misrata.

In a dramatic shift, meanwhile, Russia joined the call of Western powers for Gaddafi step down, but the outgoing head of the Arab League Amer Mussa said he doubted the embattled leader would leave voluntarily.

“We are joined in our resolve to finish the job,” Obama said after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Anti-government protesters attend Friday prayers during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the capital Sanaa yesterday. Picture: AP Photo


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