US President George Bush has urged the Congress to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to spend more than $40 million on new projects in the Middle East.
Without democratic reform throughout the region, where “freedom is rare,” the Middle East will breed extremists and terrorism, he said in his State of the Union address on January 20, 2004.
"I will send you a proposal to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy and to focus its new work on the development of free elections, free markets, free press, and free labor unions in the Middle East," Bush said.
Hostility towards the United States has reached shocking levels among Muslim populations and many Arab leaders view Washington’s plan to “spread democracy” in the Middle East is no more than a strategy for economic imperialism.
Seeking to dispel rising anti-American sentiment in the Middle East region, the US launched a $29 million Middle East Partnership Initiative in 2002. The program aims to “encourage democracy and open markets in the Arab nations, through the sustained promotion of entrepreneurship, free trade, education and women empowerment.”
The US State Department spent approximately $600 million last year on programs promoting American policies in the region and an additional $540 million on Voice of America and other broadcasts. — (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )