Cameron tells Arab students that Israel can't be blamed for their problems

Arab countries make strenuous efforts to contain unrest

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24 Feb 2011
Cameron tells Arab students that Israel can't be blamed for their problems

British Prime Minister David Cameron told students in Qatar on Wednesday that several governments in the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa use the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an excuse for their own poor governance and that the time for an end to such distractions has come.

Cameron is in Qatar as part of a regional tour that has already taken him to Kuwait and Egypt, where he got to see the results of recent political unrest. He told rulers in both countries that the way to stabilize the situation is to offer their people more economic and political opportunities, and has made efforts to tie EU development aid to progress on democracy.

Nearby, in Manama, Bahrain, large crowds chanting slogans against the government marched into Pearl Square on Wednesday, despite the government's release of at least 100 political prisoners, including 25 Shi'ite activists accused of conspiring against the state. Bahraini state media also reported that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was in Rhiyad, Saudi Arabia for talks with King Abdullah Ben Abdul Aziz, who is very concerned that unrest might spread to his Kingdom.

Having recently returned to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday after a long medical convalescence, Abdullah ordered a massive increase in the government's social development fund which helps citizens buy a home, get married or start a small business, as well as establishing unemployment insurance.

There are high hopes that these measures will forestall the kind of unrest which has rocked so many other countries in the Arab/Moslem world. Analysts have stated that if anti-government demonstrations were to erupt in Saudi Arabia, leading to a serious disruption of oil supplies, it would have devastating consequences for the still fragile world economy.

In neighboring Jordan, measures were approved by Parliament on Tuesday to make it easier to organize peaceful protests and forming a revived government committee to assist the poor with expenses.

In Yemen, protesters clashed with club-wielding backers of President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Wednesday, and Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced on Tuesday that he was lifting the 19 year state of emergency in that country.

Anti-government protests also resulted in the death of a police officer and five other people being wounded in the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja on Wednesday.


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