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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 00:03 GMT
US cash for Middle East democracy
Demonstrators burn the US flag
Washington is hoping to curb anti-US feelings
The United States has launched a new initiative designed to spread democracy, education and open markets across the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell pledged $29m to the cause during a speech in Washington.

Hope begins with a pay-cheque - and that requires a vibrant economy

Colin Powell
He described this initiative as a way of broadening America's approach to the Middle East.

But the announcement has received a mixed welcome from Arab officials.

Mr Powell's speech is widely seen as an attempt to answer those who accuse Washington of favouring authoritarian pro-American governments.

The BBC's John Leyne in Washington says it is ironic that some of the most backward economic and political systems actually belong to some of America's closest allies in the region.

The Secretary of State made clear Washington was on the side of reform.

He painted a bleak picture of Middle Eastern countries, saying the spread of democracy and free markets had largely left them behind.

Scepticism

Mr Powell criticised the marginalisation of women and the lack of educational opportunities for millions of girls and boys in the region.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Powell is seeking to win hearts and minds
"Hope begins with a pay-cheque," he said. "And that requires a vibrant economy."

America's answer is what it calls the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative.

An initial sum of $29m will initially be spent on education, projects to expand political participation and to encourage small businesses.

Mr Powell said the administration would ask Congress for more money next year - which will come in addition to the more than $1bn the US already provides in economic aid to Arab countries.

But our correspondent says the immediate reaction by some Arab diplomats in Washington was sceptical.

They criticised the US administration for focusing too much of its efforts on confronting Iraq, and too little on solving the Arab/Israeli conflict.


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05 Sep 02 | Americas
23 Jul 02 | Americas
16 Oct 01 | Media reports
16 Oct 01 | Americas
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