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Obama. 'Historic opportunity'
Photo: AFP
Obama to offer financial aid to Arab world
US president slated to unveil plan for financial and democratic support for Arab states as part of his Middle East speech Thursday. Egypt and Tunisia to be first to enjoy initiative in exchange for reforms, war on corruption

WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama is slated to offer financial and democratic aid to the Arab world in his speech on Thursday, which will also address Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and unrest in Syria and Libya.

 

The US aid plan will focus on Egypt and Tunisia in the first stage and they will serve as models for other Arab countries.

 

Obama is slated to offer Egypt 1$ billion in aid, at Cairo's request, by dropping former debts and providing incentives and guarantees for investments in work places and developing trade with the European Union. The process is to be gradual and will require political and financial reforms including a war on corruption.

 

Revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa are a historic opportunity to fulfill citizens' wishes for political freedom and financial opportunities, the president is expected to say.

 

Obama will add that after years of tensions, ending the war in Iraq and the elimination of Osama bin Laden were a chance for the US to turn over a new leaf in the Middle East.


Protestors in Cairo's Tahrir Square (Photo: Reuters)

 

White House senior officials said that the president will present practical suggestions. The US has learned from the 1947 Marshal Plan and Eastern Europe's transition into democracy in the 1990s.

 

"This is a window of opportunity for the US to take practical steps," one senior official said. The US is offering support for financial modernization and development of countries which will make the transition into democracy.

 

The US initiative is based on four components: Supporting better financial management in universities and research facilities; supporting financial stability; supporting financial modernization; and developing a framework for trade and investment relations with the EU and the US.

 

Meanwhile, Israeli state officials estimated that the US president will not set a trap for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and will not embarrass him after addressing AIPAC.

 

Netanyahu is currently busy preparing for his Washington visit and is consulting with cabinet ministers as well as President Shimon Peres in an effort to draw up guidelines for peace talks or a possible political plan to present to the US.

 

 

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