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U.S. groups nurtured Arab uprisings

WASHINGTON, April 15 (UPI) -- Democracy-building campaigns undertaken by U.S. agencies in authoritarian Arab states helped nurture the nascent uprisings in those countries, official say.

A selection of American groups, given limited funding and led by organizers trained in campaigning through social media, played a larger part in the pro-Democracy movements of the Arab Spring than military and anti-terrorism campaigns, receiving billions of dollars, The New York Times reported Friday.

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The newspaper said interviews and American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks showed the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and individual Yemeni activist Entsar Qadhi, who helped foment revolution and/or reforms, received training and financing from organizations such as the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House.

Congress created the Republican and Democratic institutes, which are loosely connected with those parties. Their financing, about $100 million a year, is channeled through the National Endowment for Democracy, established in 1983 to funnel grants intended to promote democracy in developing nations. Freedom House receives a majority of its funding from the State Department, the Times said.

Some young Egyptians went to a 2008 meeting in New York sponsored in part by Facebook, Google, MTV, Columbia Law School and the State Department, where they were instructed in how to use mobile technology, mostly social networking, to promote democracy.

"We learned how to organize and build coalitions," said Bashem Fathy, a co-founder of the youth movement behind the Egyptian uprisings. "This certainly helped during the revolution," said Fathy who attended training with Freedom House.

Although the grassroots youth movements proved ultimately effective, they were a source of contention between the U.S and certain Arab governments early on.

In an Oct. 9, 2007 diplomatic cable sent by Hosni Mubarak, then Egypt's president, to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, he said he was "deeply skeptical of the U.S. role in democracy promotion."

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