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G8 leaders vow financial, other support for 'Arab Spring'

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The leaders of the Group of Eight countries praised the so-called Arab Spring and pledged to support democratic reforms in the region on the final day of the G8 summit in France's Deauville on Friday.

The leaders of the Group of Eight countries praised the so-called Arab Spring and pledged to support democratic reforms in the region on the final day of the G8 summit in France's Deauville on Friday.

"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," the G8 leaders said in a declaration issued at the end of the summit.

"We, members of the G8, strongly support the aspirations of the 'Arab Spring' as well as those of the Iranian people," the document says. "We hear the voice of the citizens, support their determination for equality and stand by their legitimate call for democratic, open societies and inclusive economic modernization."

The declaration also specially praised the role played by young people and women in the uprisings.

'Deauville Partnership'

The G8 leaders said they have launched the "Deauville Partnership," an initiative intended to support a "transition toward free, democratic and tolerant societies" in the region, beginning with Egypt and Tunisia, the countries that were at the forefront of the unrest, and the only ones where autocratic regimes have been forced out.

More than $20 billion could be provided to Egypt and Tunisia in 2011-2013 "in support of suitable reform efforts" by multilateral development banks, including 3.5 billion euros ($4.9 billion) from the European Investment Bank.

The initiative stipulates assisting social, political and economic reforms throughout the region and supports the integration of partnership countries in the regional and global economy "through increased trade and inward investment to the region."

Tunisian Finance Minister Jalloul Ayed told journalists in Deauville that the G8, led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was planning $40 billion of aid for North Africa and Middle East.

"President Sarkozy has announced an additional package of $40 billion for the region," Ayed said.

Figures per country have not been established, he said, adding that the aid program would be detailed during upcoming finance ministers' meetings.

Libya

Following the talks, the G8 leaders also issued a final declaration, in which they urged Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi to stop violence against protesters and step down.

"We demand the immediate cessation of the use of force against civilians by the Libyan regime forces as well as the cessation of all incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population," the document reads.

Gaddafi and the Libyan government "have failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect the Libyan population and have lost all legitimacy. He has no future in a free, democratic Libya. He must go," the leaders said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told journalists in Deauville "we believe that Col. Gaddafi himself destroyed his legitimacy and we should help him go."

Moscow is ready to mediate, he added.

President Dmitry Medvedev's spokeswoman said on Friday that G8 partners would like Russia to mediate the Libyan conflict. The idea was raised during Medvedev's talks with his U.S. and French counterparts, Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy, in Deauville on Thursday, she said.

Syria

In the final declaration, the G8 leaders condemned the killing of peaceful protesters by Syrian security forces and demanded an immediate end to political reprisals against those opposing the authoritarian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"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 declaration said.

"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," it reads.

The leaders also called for the release of hundreds of people jailed during the Syrian uprising.

Sarkozy hailed the wording on Syria and said the G8 countries would stick to a common position in the UN Security Council, although Russia said it had resisted a call for Security Council action on the issue.

"We have denounced Syrian authorities' actions and their attitude to the peaceful protesters. We have hardened this text, and our Russian friends have accepted it," Sarkozy said. "The G8 countries did not have different positions on this issue, and there will also be a common position at the UN."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov told journalists that the initial version of the document, which contained a call for a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government for the violent crackdown on protesters, was rejected under Russia's pressure.

The draft resolution proposed by European nations was "untimely and harmful," he said, adding that a "one-size-fits-all" approach towards Middle Eastern countries was unacceptable.

"We are convinced that the Syrian situation differs dramatically from the Libyan one, and we believe that the Syrian leadership is ready for reforms," Ryabkov said. "The events that are taking place in this country should not be evaluated one-sidedly, with all responsibility put on the authorities."

Russia does not see any grounds for the situation in Syria to be addressed by the UN Security Council, Ryabkov said. "This is not a threat to security, this is an internal situation that we are convinced the Syrian government is able to deal with on its own."

Moscow has criticized NATO for going beyond the scope of the UN resolution that imposed a no-fly zone over Libya, accusing the alliance of bombing civilian objects in the country in a bid to oust Gaddafi, the embattled Libyan leader. Russia abstained from the UN vote on the resolution in mid-March.

Israeli-Palestinian settlement

The leaders also gave "strong support" to Obama's call for Israel's pre-1967 borders to be the basis for negotiations on a future Palestinian state.

"We are convinced that the historic changes throughout the region make the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations more important, not less," the G8 leaders said in their final document.

"Aspirations of the peoples in the region need to be heeded, including that of the Palestinians for a viable and sovereign state and that of Israelis for security and regional integration," they said, adding "the time to resume the peace process is now."

Obama sparked controversy with the call in a major speech at the State Department last week and reiterated his position on Sunday, stressing that the final borders of the Israeli and Palestinian states would be negotiated with land swaps.

The Quartet of Middle East peace mediators - the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia - expressed "strong support" for the plan last week. Israel was quick to reject the proposal, saying Israel's pre-1967 borders were indefensible.

The Palestinians are threatening to go to the United Nations in September and seek international recognition for an independent Palestinian state.

DEAUVILLE (France), May 27 (RIA Novosti)

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