Deauville: The Group of Eight summit concluded Friday with a general call to encourage democratic change in North Africa and the Middle East, although the world’s wealthiest nations avoided pledging specific financial aid.
The G8 world powers threw their weight behind the Arab Spring on Friday, intensifying the pressure on Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi and pledging billions for fledgling democracies.
The West`s drive to oust Kadhafi was boosted on the military front, with France and Britain vowing a "new phase" of operations, and on the diplomatic, with Russia joining calls for him to step down and head into exile.
"The world community does not see him as the Libyan leader," President Dmitry Medvedev said, in a turn-around in Russia`s stance that was welcomed by summit host Nicolas Sarkozy of France and White House officials.
Medvedev said if Kadhafi were to go "this would be useful for ... the Libyan people. Then one can discuss how it can be done, which country could take him and on what terms, what he could retain and what he must lose."
"Democracy lays the best path to peace, stability, prosperity, shared growth and development," the leaders declared, after meeting with prime ministers from post-revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt seeking support for reform.
Presidents and prime ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States had met in the French resort of Deauville.
They took a tough line with the regimes resisting pro-democratic revolts, warning Libya and Syria to halt the violent repression of their own peoples.
"We demand the immediate cessation of the use of force against civilians by the Libyan regime forces as well as the cessation of all incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population," the statement said.
"Kadhafi and the Libyan government have failed to fulfil their responsibility to protect the Libyan population and have lost all legitimacy. He has no future in a free, democratic Libya. He must go," it warned.
Sarkozy said there would be an intensification of military action against Kadhafi and Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that Britain would send Apache helicopter gunships to target Libyan forces at close quarters.
"I talked late last night with the four other countries that are taking part in the operation over the last two months, and I believe we are entering a new phase," Cameron said at his final summit press briefing.
"There are signs that the momentum against Kadhafi is really building. The regime is on the back foot," he added.
US President Barack Obama said after talks with Sarkozy that "we have made progress on our Libya campaign" -- referring to NATO`s air strikes in support of rebel forces -- and vowed: "We are joined in resolve to finish the job."
Ahead of the summit, Russia -- which has criticised the NATO air war on Kadhafi`s regime -- was seen as reluctant to take a hard line, but it too toughened its stance on Libya during the Deauville meeting.
Medvedev said later Russia would send its senior Africa envoy to the Libyan rebel bastion of Benghazi to contact the insurgents.
He also said Syria`s President Bashar al-Assad should pass "from words to actions" in ending the deadly crackdown on protests against his regime.
Russia nevertheless insisted on watering down an ultimatum to Syria, obliging its partners to drop a threat of United Nations Security Council sanctions in favour of a more general warning of "further measures".
"We call on the Syrian leadership to immediately stop using force and intimidation against the Syrian people," the G8 said, even as troops loyal to Assad dispersed a new round of protests in Damascus.
With popular revolts sweeping the region, the G8 was expected to pledge billions in aid to help Tunisia and Egypt along the path towards democracy after their successful anti-regime uprisings earlier this year.
Both economies were hit hard by the tumultuous events of January and February, and Egypt wants between 10 and 12 billion dollars in aid by the middle of next year, Tunisia 25 billion dollars over the next five years.
"What President Sarkozy announced is a global package of 40 billion dollars for the region. This package has not been broken down by country," Tunisia`s Finance Minister Jalloul Ayed said after Arab and African leaders met the G8.
Ayed said foreign and finance ministers from the region would meet before July to break down the programme -- designed to kickstart economic development and anchor democratic reform -- in more detail.