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Gulf Arab states to discuss regional aid plan-UAE

Details to be disclosed on Thursday - UAE foreign minister.

March 8, 2011 10:20 by

Gulf Arab states will discuss a plan this week to provide aid to less prosperous regional countries Bahrain and Oman, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) foreign minister said on Monday.

The prospect of an aid fund has been reported by media as protests sweeping the Arab world, led by mostly the young and unemployed, have toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia and threaten Libya’s long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Protests have spread to Bahrain, Oman and Yemen, all close to Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, prompting the kingdom and the UAE to consider spending billions of dollars to improve living standards for poorer citizens in the region.

“The points that you have raised are going to be key in these meetings,” UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said, when asked whether Gulf states would discuss economic aid for Bahrain and Oman.

He said foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — which groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — would meet in Riyadh on Thursday, following their meeting in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, said the full plan would be announced in the Riyadh meeting.

“It is a GCC-wide plan,” Sheikh Khalid told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

“Whatever Bahrain needs and the people of Bahrain need will be addressed by the rest of our group. Many needs have to do with the livelihood of our citizens. It’s something that will answer the need of our people.”

He said he did not have any details about the amount of the financial package that will be extended to Bahrain and Oman.

Kuwait daily al-Qabas reported last week that the six-member GCC was working on aid packages for Bahrain and Oman, small non-OPEC oil producers where thousands are protesting to demand political reform and jobs.

Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman have allocated new funds, grants and social benefits or promised new jobs and raised wages.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

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