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G-20 discusses how to help Mideast and North Africa

G-20, a group of financial leaders from 20 of the world's biggest economies, meets in Washington to discuss challenges facing the global economy. The G-20 talks are focusing on how to prevent imbalances in trade and government debt.

By Martin CrutsingerAssociated Press / April 15, 2011

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, center, walks to a meeting of the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors, Friday, April 15, 2011, at the 2011 Spring Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Countries with the largest economies are pledging financial support for new governments in the Mideast and North Africa, historic changes that a U.S. official compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Major nations stood ready with international lending institutions to aid Egypt and Tunisia, the U.S. and France said in joint statement Thursday.

Treasury Undersecretary Lael Brainard, writing on Foreign Policy magazine's website, said the transformations could prove as successful in unlocking economic prosperity as the events in Germany after the wall fell in 1989.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, in a statement summarizing the talks among the world's economic powers, that the group would offer a plan soon to support "inclusive and sustained growth, transparency and improved governance."

Brainard wrote that "across the Middle East and North Africa, unprecedented upheavals are creating historic opportunities to expand the circle of democratic societies."

She said the changes and efforts to provide greater economic growth for the region's young people would take a number of years, with many challenges ahead. "We must be prepared to work through the setbacks and scale up successes," she wrote.

The discussions on the Middle East occurred at the start of three days of finance talks designed to deal with various challenges facing the global economy. They range from soaring food and energy prices to tensions between the United States and China, the world's two largest economies, over currencies and trade.

The discussions Friday involved the Group of 20, which includes traditional economic powers such as the United States and European nations and major developing powers such as Brazil, China and India.