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Group of Eight leaders back 'historic' Arab Spring revolts

Group of Eight leaders promised Friday to support new Arab democracies, according to a statement they were due to release following a meeting in the French town of Deauville.
Image: U.S. President Obama and France's President Sarkozy attend a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Deauville
U.S. President Barack Obama listens as France's President Nicolas Sarkozy speaks at a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Deauville May 27, 2011.PHILIPPE WOJAZER / Reuters
/ Source: Reuters

Group of Eight leaders promised Friday to support new Arab democracies, according to a statement they were due to release following a meeting in the northern French resort town of Deauville.

"The changes under way in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) 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," said the statement, a copy of which was obtained in advance by Reuters.

"We, members of the G-8, strongly support the aspirations of the Arab Spring as well as those of the Iranian people," it added.

The statement said development banks could provide "over $20 billion" for Egypt and Tunisia — where the uprisings were successful — for 2011-2013 in support of "suitable reform efforts."

The G-8 consists of the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the U.K. and Japan.

They issued statements on countries where the uprisings are continuing.

Yemen violence condemned
They condemned violence by Yemeni forces against peaceful protesters and called on the country's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to stick to his commitment to end his 33-year rule.

"We condemn the use of violence in response to peaceful protest throughout Yemen," the G-8 leaders said in a communique that will be released after the two-day summit in France.

"We urge President Saleh to immediately follow through on his commitments and ensure that the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people are addressed," the group added.

The leaders called for "a peaceful and orderly transition."

The G-8 also said they were "appalled" at the killing of peaceful protesters by Syrian authorities and demanded an immediate end to the use of force.

However they refrained from an explicit proposal — contained in earlier drafts of the document — to act against Damascus in the U.N. Security Council.

The shift in language to a vaguer threat of "further measures" may reflect reluctance from Russia, which has a veto in the Security Council and which has generally taken a softer line than Western states against autocratic Arab leaders.

"We are appalled by the deaths of many peaceful protesters as a result of the sweeping use of violence in Syria as well as by repeated and serious violations of human rights," the leaders said in a communique.

"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," it added.

It said "only the path of dialogue and fundamental reforms" would lead to democracy, and "thus to long-term security and prosperity in Syria."

"Should the Syrian authorities not heed this call, we will consider further measures," the statement said. "We are convinced that only by implementing meaningful reforms will a democratic Syria be able to play a positive role in the region."

President Barack Obama also said Friday that the United States and France were in full agreement on sticking with the NATO-led intervention in Libya until the crisis there is resolved.

"We agreed we have made progress on our Libya campaign but that meeting the U.N. mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when (Moammar) Gadhafi remains in Libya, directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people," Obama told a news briefing at the G-8 summit.

'Finish the job' in Libya
"We are joined in resolve to finish the job," he said, after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy during the G8 meeting.

The G-8 also said the world economy appeared to be improving.

"The global recovery is gaining strength and is becoming more self-sustained. However, downside risks remain, and internal and external imbalances are still a concern," the communique said.

"The sharp increase in commodity prices and their excessive volatility pose a significant headwind to the recovery," it added.

"In this context, we agreed to remain focused on the action required to enhance the sustainability of public finances, to strengthen the recovery and foster employment, to reduce risks and ensure strong, sustainable and balanced growth, including through structural reforms," it said.