Arab NGOs say solve crises first, then push reform
AMMAN: World leaders should find answers to conflicts wracking the Middle East before pushing US-sponsored reforms in the region, Arab non-governmental organizations said on Monday. Speaking ahead of an international gathering of ministers on a US-inspired idea to push its vision of democracy, key speaker Hani Horani told the opening of a two day conference that "reform is not an alternative to crises."
"We cannot accept reforms at the expense of ignoring the conflicts under way in the region and the appropriate solutions to these conflicts," Horani, of Jordan's Al-Urdun Al-Jadid Research Center, told 300 delegates from Jordan and Arab countries.
The "Parallel Conference For Civil Society For Forum For The Future" precedes a two-day "Forum For the Future" that opens on Thursday, to discuss Washington's Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative adopted at a G8 summit in the United States in June 2004.
Foreign ministers from the G8 group of industrialized nations - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US - Arab, Muslim and other European countries are expected to attend the forum.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to attend the forum on the shores of the Dead Sea where speakers will include British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel-Ilah Khatib will host the event, which will also be attended by his counterparts from Bahrain, Iraq and Egypt.
Bakhtiar Amin, a former Iraqi human rights minister, told the counter-forum conference that "practical solutions" must be found to eradicate "problems and rampant violence in the region." - AFP