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Gulf bloc plans 5-yr aid scheme for Jordan, Morocco

Gulf Arab countries plan to fund a five-year development aid programme for Morocco and Jordan, aspiring members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) political and economic bloc, and the amount will be set in December, the GCC's chief said on Sunday.

September 12, 2011 12:31 by

Oil-exporting Gulf monarchies are seeking closer ties with Arab counterparts outside the Gulf to help contain pro-democracy unrest that is buffeting autocratic ruling elites throughout the Arab world, analysts say.

The six members of the GCC — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — said in May they would consider a request by the two Arab monarchies to join, but as yet few practical steps have been taken.
“There is a call for creating an economic development programme for the two brotherly countries Jordan and Morocco,” GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif al-Zayani said after a Gulf foreign ministers meeting in Jeddah.

“A recommendation on the size (of the aid) will be made and a decision taken by the heads of states of the GCC at their next summit (in December),” Zayani said of the five-year programme.

Within the bloc, the richer Gulf countries have offered $10 billion each in development funds to Bahrain and Oman, where protesters took to the streets this year demanding reforms.

Bahrain, where a Sunni Muslim royal family has long ruled over a Shi’ite majority, crushed weeks of street protests in March calling for greater political freedoms, a constitutional monarchy and an end to sectarian discrimination.

Neighbouring Sunni-led Gulf states sent troops into Bahrain to help suppress protests, in turn aggravating regional tension with nearby Shi’ite giant Iran, which Bahrain accused of stoking the unrest. Bahraini Shi’ites deny being steered by Iran.

In Oman there were more limited street protests and the government responded with plans to boost jobs and develop the economy. (Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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