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G-8 Pledges Aid to Promote Arab Democracy; Fighting Spreads in Yemen

May 27, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
Group of 8 leaders wrapped up their two-day summit in Deauville, France, on Friday by comparing the "Arab spring" to the fall of the Berlin Wall and promising up to $40 billion in aid to Tunisia and Egypt for their fight for democracy. Jeffrey Brown reports on the summit's conclusion and ongoing unrest around the Arab world.
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JEFFREY BROWN: The world’s major industrial democracies, the Group of Eight, agreed today on financial help to promote Arab democracy. The announcement came as more blood was shed across the Middle East.

The leaders wrapped up their two-day summit in Deauville, France, comparing the Arab spring to the fall of the Berlin Wall. And there were sweeping promises of aid, up to $40 billion for Tunisia and Egypt, where longtime rulers have been deposed.

It was welcome news for the Tunisian finance minister.

JALLOUL AYED, Tunisian finance minister (through translator): We are really very satisfied by the strong declarations, very clear and precise, that came from all the G-8 countries and from the financial institutions. It is very clear that everybody wants to help us.

JEFFREY BROWN: But there was also tough talk for those resisting the tides of change. President Obama and his counterparts insisted again that Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi step down.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We agreed that we have made progress on our Libya campaign, but that meeting the U.N. mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Gadhafi remains in Libya, directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people. And we are joined in resolve to finish the job.

JEFFREY BROWN: Russian officials said they are willing to lead a diplomatic effort trying to mediate a peaceful end to the Libyan crisis.

SERGEI RYABKOV, deputy Russian foreign minister (through translator): What is important for us is that the sides find a basis for agreement. The main thing is to stop shooting. If the basis involves the departure of Gadhafi, which it does, then there is no doubt that we are all ready to confirm that Gadhafi should leave.

JEFFREY BROWN: But the summit host, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said mediation is not possible with Gadhafi, and insisted that there is great unanimity about stepping up the military campaign in Libya, including the addition of French and British attack helicopters.

The response from Tripoli was dismissive. Libya’s deputy foreign minister accused the G-8 of meddling.

KHALED KAIM, Libyan deputy foreign minister: This is the business of Libyans. This is purely an internal affair. And I think fabricating lies and interfering in internal affairs and violating and abusing international legitimacy will not help stability and peace in the region and in the world in general.

JEFFREY BROWN: Syria’s killing of protesters also drew strong criticism from the G-8 leaders, but they stopped short of calling for action by the U.N. Security Council, due partly to Russia’s opposition.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, Russian president (through translator): We are not in favor of new sanctions. We believe that the president of Syria should get down to work, should continue with the reforms that he announced and ensure that the opposition has a voice. And he has to change the electoral legislation, stop violence during protests by the opposition.

JEFFREY BROWN: In Syria today, protesters showed no sign of waiting for outside action.

Thousands marched again in cities and villages across the country, demanding President Bashar al-Assad step down. And security forces again opened fire. Human rights activists reported at least eight people were killed.

While in Yemen, heavy fighting between government forces and tribal fighters spread to new regions today, leaving the country at the brink of civil war, as President Ali Abdullah Saleh clings to power.

SHEIK SADEQ AL-AHMAR, Hashid Tribe (through translator): We will not allow President Saleh to lead Yemen to civil war. He attacked our houses, and we are steadfast. There are initiatives to stop this war. If he agrees to it, we will agree. If not, we are ready to face the consequences.

JEFFREY BROWN: Tribal leaders reported at least 18 people were killed today to the south of the capital, Sanaa, as fighters tried to gain control of three military posts.

In the capital, though, an apparent cease-fire took hold. Thousands of people staged a relatively peaceful street protest after days of fighting that left more than 100 dead.

Meanwhile, an estimated 10,000 Egyptians filled Tahrir Square in Cairo after Friday prayers in what was billed as the second revolution rally. They called for the country’s temporary military rulers to pick up the pace on making reforms.

TAREK EL NAHRY, activist (through translator): We came here to assure the people of Egypt that this revolution still exists. It has not ended yet. It will only end when it achieves its goals. We want them to speed up trials of corrupt officials. We need a new constitution, and we want a civilian presidential council to rule us.

JEFFREY BROWN: The Egyptian military said it was keeping units well away from the protest area to avoid any confrontations.