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G8 pledges $40 billion for reforms in Tunisia and Egypt

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Obama said he and Sarkozy agreed that the NATO bombing must continue.

The G8 summit in France has concluded with nations pledging billions in economic aid to the pioneers of the Arab Spring. But this is more than just an act of generosity.

Leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations concluded their two-day summit in Deauville, France on Friday, pledging $40 billion to support democratic reforms in Tunisia and Egypt.

The two North African nations are so far the only participants in the “Arab Spring” that have successfully overthrown their old regimes. G8 leaders said it was vital to stabilize these countries economically in order to safeguard their path toward democracy.

Speaking at the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged fellow industrial nations to act quickly.

“I think it’s now about making the aid concrete,” she said. “I think we need new, fast and efficient structures, like an EU task force, in order to bring this forward. Tunisia already has a clear economic plan, and we have the power to help make it happen.”

Immigration flow

More than an act of generosity, the aid to Tunisia and Egypt has practical applications as well. European governments in particular are anxious to stem the massive influx of refugees by helping north African nations economically.

Ragia Omran, an Egyptian lawyer and human rights activist who took part in the G8 meeting, said she would welcome the aid only if it ended up in the hands of the Egyptian people.

“There are still remnants of the old regime who are still trying to resist the principles and ideas of this revolution,” she said. “If it is going to be supporting the army, or keeping the regime as it is, then we don’t want this money.”

Libyan standoff

Meanwhile, the isolation of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi increased, as Russia joined calls for him to resign. Of all the G8 governments, Moscow has shown the most reservation about Western military intervention.

A Russian delegate at the summit said the Kremlin was considering a push for new mediation efforts. But NATO has grown skeptical of diplomacy, opting instead to intensify its two-month-old bombing campaign.

Britain announced plans to send Apache helicopter gunships to Libya, and US President Barack Obama, after bilateral talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, told journalists the fight would go on.

“We agreed that we have made progress on our Libya campaign, but that meeting the UN mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Gadhafi remains in Libya, directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people,” he said.


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