G8 nations offer aid, but don't say how much

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The world's richest nations promised yesterday to build a multibillion pounds "partnership" with the new democracies of the "Arab Spring" -- but forgot to write out the cheque.

The final communiqué of the G8 summit in Deauville in Normandy spoke of the "historic potential" of the democratic revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and promised international aid to help to meet popular "aspirations" for stability and growth.

The summit made a "Deauville Declaration" calling on international development banks and wealthy nations to channel billions of pounds of new investment into Egypt and Tunisia so long as they maintained their course towards democracy.

But the communiqué was notably light – and deliberately confusing – on specific figures and new commitments. The US President, Barack Obama, with support from the Prime Minister, David Cameron, blocked a suggestion by the summit chairman, President Nicolas Sarkozy, that the G8 countries should promise a package of $40bn of loans and aid. The final statement said only that international development banks "could provide over $20bn" for Egypt and Tunisia over three years "in support of suitable reform efforts". Non-governmental organisations pointed out that G8 summits had a reputation as a "promise machine". The $50bn which was "pledged" over five years to Africa in 2005 had fallen $19bn short.

The Oxfam spokeswoman, Emma Seery, said: "Unless they deliver on their existing commitments to fight poverty [in Africa] what's to say this is not just another batch of empty promises?"

The interim Tunisian finance minister, Jaloul Ayad, said that his country alone needed up to $25bn of investment over five years to meet the "expectations" of young people and stop the kind of emigration which has caused "exaggerated" panic in Europe in recent weeks.

President Sarkozy also faced a couple of light-hearted questions on the increasingly apparent – but not yet admitted – pregnancy of his wife, Carla.

The Deauville summit also called upon the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to depart and allow the Arab Spring to engulf the country.