Some European influence made itself felt when G8 leaders signed up this week to a "Partnership for Progress and a Common Future with the Region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa". The US initiative of last autumn has been modified at least in part to take account of European - and Arab - views.

So the text no longer defines the region dismissively as predominantly Muslim and of strategic interest for the United States. And it no longer omits any reference to the Israel-Palestine conflict - seen by Arab countries and the EU as an indispensable component of any strategy for the region.

The resulting G8 document expresses firm support for reform in the region that "will go hand in hand with our support for a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict". European pressure was also behind its clear statement that "Successful reform depends on the countries in the region, and change should not and cannot be imposed from outside." And there is explicit recognition of the actions currently underway in the region - particularly the EU's own Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

But for all its fine words, the G8 plan lacks any funding, and its Washington provenance leaves it vulnerable...

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