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article imageGulf nations pool funds in bid to appease protesters

By Joseph E Lovell     Mar 10, 2011 in World
Riyadh - Gulf Cooperation Council announces $20 billion aid package designed to assist Oman and Bahrain overcome demands for social and political reform.
Foreign ministers of the six member coalition delivered a statement affirming mutual security assistance and a financial package that will see Bahrain and Oman receive US $10 billion each over the next ten years “to finance development projects in GCC states.”
Included in the joint statement was a warning, reported by Digital Journal, against foreign intervention in Arab affairs:
The Gulf Cooperation Council believes that any threat to the security of any member state harms the security of all states and will be dealt with decisively and immediately, without hesitation. The GCC states and peoples totally reject any attempts for foreign interference in its affairs and declare they will firmly curb those trying to foment sectarian rift.
The meeting comes amid continued calls for protest in Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Facebook pages calling for “revolution marches” throughout this month have tens of thousands of followers.
Although wealthy in world terms, Oman and Bahrain are the two poorest GCC members.
Oman has experienced its largest protests in Sohar and Salalah with limited unrest in the capital Muscat. Despite three cabinet reshuffles during the last month and promises of increased public sector pay and job creation, dissent has continued. Protesters are calling for former ministers to be investigated for corruption. There is no provision for financial disclosure of public bodies and officials in the country and it is illegal to criticise the absolute ruler, Sultan Qaboos. Consequently, it is difficult to gauge public opinion. A handful of reports of protester casualties have emerged from Sohar in recent weeks.
In Bahrain, seven protesters died in unrest that also resulted in concessions and a cabinet reshuffle. The country is of particular concern in the region. Bahrain has a Sunni royal family ruling over a 70 percent Shia majority and lies off the coast of the Shia populated Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, which has witnessed small protests during the last few weeks.
Reports are currently emerging from Qatif, Eastern Province, of Saudi police opening fire on protesters demanding the release of prisoners held for 14 years without trial.
Today's GCC statement also called for a foreign-enforced no-fly zone over Libya and the immediate resignation of Muammar Gaddafi, who has “lost legitimacy.”
File photo: Meeting of Turkish Foreign Ministry and GCC
File photo: Meeting of Turkish Foreign Ministry and GCC
Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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