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French Version

NGO's insist reform in Arabs' own interest

U.S. Mideast policies should not be a pretext to delay change

Arab non-governmental organizations (NGOs) called at a conference in Manama on Monday for reforms as a "necessity" to modernize the Arab world, rejecting claims they only served Western interests. Reforms in the Arab world are not aimed at "appeasing the West and serving its goals," Abdel-Nabi al-Akri, coordinator of the NGO conference, said at the opening of the two-day "Parallel Conference of Forum for Future.

"Our civil society organizations are undertaking the issue of reforms and democratization because they are a necessity for us [Arabs] to catch up with modernization," he said.

There is a "necessity for comprehensive political, economic and social reforms," he said.

The conference comes ahead of the November 11-12 "Forum for Future" during which foreign ministers of 38 countries from the Middle East and G8 will discuss the U.S.-sponsored Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) initiative.

Only non-political organizations were invited to the meeting which aims at allowing civil society organizations to play a bigger role in Arab reforms.

Many speakers criticized U.S. policies in the Middle East, but insisted that they should not be made a pretext to delay much-needed reforms.

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said the United States was losing the "ability and credibility to advocate democratic change," because of its policies toward Iraq and the Palestinians.

"But ... what America says should not be discredited," he said.

Arabs must insist on reforms "not because America wants it, but because we need it," said the head of the think-tank.

During the meeting, participants from Arab countries, Europe and the United States, will discuss issues on women, human rights and good governance, in addition to Islamic culture, human rights and democratic transformation.

Recommendations of the conference will be submitted to the foreign ministers of Bahrain and Britain to be discussed by the foreign ministers of G8 and BMENA, Akri said.

Beirut,07November2005
Redaction
The Daily Star


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