Germany proposes EU action plan for West Asia

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Luxembourg, Oct 16: Germany proposed today what it called an ''action plan'' for fostering West Asia peace with new steps to bolster the Palestinian economy, security forces and state institutions.

Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier urged the EU to help wean Palestinians from development aid by helping to strengthen their private sector, stepping up an EU operation that is training local police, and with greater EU assistance to Palestinian universities and students.

Steinmeier told counterparts meeting in Brussels there was no need to await the outcome of a US-hosted conference on the West Asia next month and added he had already informed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of the proposal.

''I told my colleague Rice yesterday that we will do everything to ensure that Europe plays a constructive role,'' he told reporters, adding that Berlin would call for EU leaders to discuss it at an EU summit in Lisbon which starts on Thursday.

He said the measures could include EU help for a special economic zones in the Palestinian territories, and targeted assistance for small- and medium-sized companies.

The EU calls itself the largest aid donor to the West Asia.

Steinmeier put total financial and humanitarian aid from the EU and its member states to the region at 800 million euros (1.14 billion dollars) for 2007 so far.


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