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European Bank Seeks Arab Expansion

Thomas Mirow, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (file photo)

A European bank that was established in the post Cold War era to help formerly Communist countries has launched an effort to help countries affected by the Arab uprisings.

The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced plans on Saturday to expand its lending into the Middle East and North Africa. During an annual meeting in Kazakhstan, the group's board of governors asked the bank's directors to come up with a plan by the end of July on extending the bank's mandate to the regions.

The EBRD released a statement that says Egypt and Morocco have already expressed an interest in becoming recipients. The statement says bank president Thomas Mirow has indicated the lending institution could eventually have the capacity to invest up to $3.5 billion a year in the regions.

On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced his support of an expanded EBRD mission. During a major speech on Middle East policy, he said the U.S. would work with its allies to "refocus" the European bank so that it could support "democratic transitions and economic modernization" in the Middle East and North Africa.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.