- - Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The European Investment Bank (EIB) said Tuesday that it needs more funds to support a democratic transition in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab countries, as anti-government protests continued throughout the region.

If European Union governments approve an additional $1.4 billion of lending and allow the EIB to reinvest money being repaid from earlier projects, the bank could raise its lending to the region to $8.2 billion over the next three years, EIB President Philippe Maystadt said.

Mr. Maystadt said a priority for new projects must be the creation of jobs, especially for young Arabs. Many of them have been frustrated by the lack of opportunities and are seen as the main drivers of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

In 2010, the EIB loaned a record $3.5 billion to projects in the Arab region, making it the biggest provider of long-term financing there, he said.

Meanwhile, around the region Tuesday:

• Tens of thousands of protesters in Bahrain flooded the kingdom’s capital, Manama, as the king made another concession to the marchers — a promise to release an unspecified number of political prisoners.

• In Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, pro-government demonstrators tried to beat back anti-government protesters from a central square, as tens of thousands rallied across the country in a widening campaign to bring down U.S.-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

• About 5,000 protesters marched in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah to demand political reforms and an investigation of the fatal shootings of two protesters last week — a sign of growing frustration with the economy and politics in the self-ruled Kurdish region.

• Protest strikes hampered businesses in Algeria, as the Cabinet approved a plan to lift a state of emergency that has been in place for 19 years — a move widely seen as a means to mollify demonstrators.

From combined dispatches

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