LEADERS of the world's richest nations will promise today to provide loans and cash to shore up the economies of the so-called Arab Spring countries, where people have risen up against authoritarian leaders, but they might stop short of accepting the sweeping "Middle East Marshall Plan" that some had called for.
Leaders of the G8 are expected to approve the principle of a special aid package for Egypt and Tunisia at the end of the two-day summit in Deauville in Normandy, France, today.
But the final summit statement is expected -- partly as a result of US opposition -- to avoid the specific cash and loan promises that the newly democratised Arab countries had hoped for.
British officials said Prime Minister David Cameron was ready to promise £110m (€127m) in aid for such countries over four years. The initial beneficiaries would be Tunisia and Egypt. Both have struggled to restore stability after protests removed Tunisia's president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt a month later.
The money would mostly be channelled towards non-governmental organisations or invested in efforts to build democratic institutions.
Mr Cameron said he wanted a "very simple and clear message" to go to those campaigning for democratic freedoms in the Middle East and north Africa. "We are on your side. We will help you build your democracy," he said.
Today's summit declaration is expected to promise a "durable partnership" with Egypt and Tunisia and any other Arab countries that overthrow autocratic rule.
The US has already promised a multibillion-dollar contribution but is reluctant to be pinned down further. The summit chairman, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said that leaders would discuss the aid package over dinner last night.
The summit communique is expected to outline a large potential loan programme, run by the World Bank and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. But the leaders may stop short of making specific, overall cash and loan commitments.
The first day of the summit also discussed nuclear safety in the wake of the calamity at the Fukushima plant in Japan. Mr Sarkozy said the leaders had agreed that developed nations must work towards new safety rules. (© Independent News Service)
G8 Summit: see business