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Tuesday, January 25, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Arab League to members: Economic conditions fueling 'unprecedented' anger

CAIRO — Arab leaders have been warned that they are vulnerable to the same kind of revolt that ousted Tunisia's president.

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Arab League secretary-general Amr Mussa urged member states to quickly confront their economic and social problems. Mussa warned that unrest was reaching unprecedented levels throughout the Middle East.

"The Arab citizen has entered a stage of anger that is unprecedented," Mussa said.


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The warning was issued amid a wave of unrest throughout the Middle East. In wake of the downfall of the regime of President Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali, violent demonstrations have swept Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Sudan.

"What is happening in Tunisia in terms of the revolution is not an issue far from the issues of this summit which is economic and social development," Mussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, said.

In a Jan. 19 address to an Arab economic summit in Egypt's Sharm e-Sheik, Mussa stressed that regional unrest was being fueled by economic rather than political conditions, Middle East Newsline reported. It was the first time an Arab leader warned that the Tunisian revolt — fueled by Facebook and Twitter — could spread throughout the Middle East.

Tunisia has been regarded as the most modern country in the Arab world. The North African state attracted billions of dollars in investments by European Union countries that sought to manufacture advanced products at lower costs.

"It is on everyone's mind that the Arab individual is broken by poverty, unemployment and a general slide in indicators," Mussa said. "This is in addition to political problems that have not been resolved."

At this point, those leading the revolt in Tunisia have not been identified with the Islamic opposition. Officials said this was unprecedented as virtually all of the major opposition groups in the Arab world were linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

At the summit, Arab leaders acknowledged that their countries were threatened by economic woes, but blamed these problems on global trends. They cited unemployment, lack of decent housing and the rising price of food. Some countries, such as Jordan and Syria, have already launched plans to stabilize the price of fuel and food staples.

"We are not isolated from the world with its problems, challenges and crises," Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said. "Employment and creating employment opportunities will remain one of the most important challenges we face."



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