Clegg trumpets soft power in Arab Spring

Aug. 22, 2011 at 12:59 PM
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LONDON, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The best way to diffuse a sense of injustice for those people involved in the Arab Spring is through improving material circumstances, London said.

A protest suicide sparked the Jasmine Revolution in December that ended President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's tenure after more than 23 years in power. That revolution spilled over to Egypt, ending President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade grip on power, and threatens similar regimes in Yemen, Syria and Libya.

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in a speech before delegates at the British Council in London said the British government has committed more than $180 million during the next four years to development in the Arab world.

"The only way to diffuse that sense of injustice is by improving people's material circumstances -- helping these economies reach their potential, ensuring they generate growth for all," he said. "But the only way to do that is through economic and political reform."

Clegg said the governments under Ben Ali, Mubarak, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi and Syria's Bashar Assad hadn't come to terms with principled reforms, adding sometimes London didn't always get it right. But the reformers of his generation, he said, helped bring down the Berlin Wall in the 1990s and the reformers of today would remember the exhilaration in Cairo's Tahrir Square with equal significance.

"The genie is out of the bottle," he said.

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