World's leading industrial nations call G8 on the president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to stand down to end the intense fighting that has erupted in the country.
G8 countries 'ready to offer the help needed' to Arab Spring countries, says UK's Cameron
Leaders of the G8 group of industrialised nations voiced support yesterday for the change that has swept parts of the Arab world, though pressure has mounted for economic aid to match the words of support.
Starting their two-day summit in the French town of Deauville, key figures from the G8 called on the president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to stand down to end the intense fighting that has erupted in the country.
In a keynote address on the events of the Arab Spring, British prime minister David Cameron said G8 nations stood ready to offer the help needed to show solidarity with countries that have taken moves towards democracy.
Late yesterday, Britain announced that it plans to give an extra £110 million (Dh660m) to fledgling Arab democracies, a spokesman for Mr Cameron said.
During his speech, Mr Cameron said: "I want a very simple and clear message to come out of this summit, and that is that the most powerful nations on earth have come together and are saying to those in the Middle East and North Africa who want greater democracy, greater freedom, greater civil rights, 'We are on your side'.
"We will help you build your democracy. We will help your economies … We will help you in all the ways we can, because the alternative to a successful democracy is more of the poisonous extremism that has done so much damage in our world."
The new leadership in Egypt and Tunisia have made it clear they are looking to G8 powers to offer the massive aid their troubled economies need if the uprisings are to lead to sustainable democracies.
Mr Cameron acknowledged this argument, saying greater democracy and freedom in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia was also good for Britain and its partners because it meant "less extremism … more peace and prosperity", as well as reduced pressures of immigration.
Britain's desire to aid the post-revolutionary governments provided important backing to the US president, Barack Obama, in his own calls for substantial aid.
The revolutions that drove the regimes of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak from power have left both countries with pressing financial problems.
Mr Cameron's comments indicate that Britain, along with the US and France, believes G8 nations must set aside their own budgetary concerns to ensure the developing democracies are not compromised by economic crisis.
A warning was sounded before the summit by Canadian officials who said that given the amount the two countries needed - estimated at US$15 billion (Dh55.1bn) - no country was in a position to offer bilateral solutions. Instead, the Canadians suggested, help would have to come in arrangements with international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development Bank.
The conflict in Yemen, which is reported to have left more than 100 people dead this week in fighting between supporters of the president and his opponents, dominated the early statements from participating countries.
The French hosts of the summit set the tone with a foreign ministry official denouncing the fighting in Yemen and describing the continued violence as "a direct result of the current political impasse, for which President Saleh has direct responsibility due to his refusal to sign the [Gulf Cooperation Council] transition agreement".
The position of the US, which previously supported Mr Saleh because of his stand against al Qa'eda, was stressed separately by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state.
She said in Paris: "We continue to support the departure of President Saleh who has consistently agreed that he would be stepping down from power and then consistently reneged on those agreements."
Mr Cameron also commented on the continuing violence in Syria.
"I think the crackdown, the loss of life, the fact that civilians have been shot on the streets is absolutely appalling, and it's right that the international community is turning up the heat on that regime," he said. "It's right that Britain has been leading the calls for sanctions for travel bans, for asset freezes, for action in the United Nations. And I think you'll be seeing more of that in the days ahead."
Mr Obama, who flew to Deauville after his state visit to Britain, had said the G8 - consisting of the US, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Italy and Russia - was still able to offer leadership even though China and India are not members.
Among the issues discussed were internet regulation, the apparent stalemate in Libya and the recent disasters suffered by Japan. There were also talks on the future of the IMF following the resignation as managing director of Dominique Strauss-Kahn after his arrest on sex charges in New York.
European nations supported the candidacy for new IMF head declared on Wednesday by the French economy minister Christine Lagarde. The US said it had no formal position, though Mrs Clinton hinted at endorsement when she said Washington welcomed highly qualified women at the head of international agencies.
But Reuters quoted a European Union diplomatic source as saying Ms Lagarde was not specifically supported in the G8's draft resolution.
Tight security made access to the Normandy resort almost impossible for would-be demonstrators, leaving a few hundred protesters to repeat the token rallies they staged at the weekend in nearby Le Havre.
Before the summit began, the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to clinch a deal with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, for the sale of four warships. Two Mistral-class helicopter carriers will be built in France and two in Russia, to French specifications, and Mr Sarkozy said negotiations were all but over with contracts likely to be signed within a fortnight.
*Additional reporting from Reuters