Global outreach: Pittsburgh deals itself into the new Middle East

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This week, in spite of the rain and disruption of Pittsburgh's links with East Coast airports, the city has been a center of contact with important leaders of the Middle East.

The American Middle East Institute sponsored a seminar Tuesday on health care in the Middle East. Discussion included the difficult questions of and possible contributions to meeting the region's pharmaceutical and other medical needs by Pittsburgh private companies and public institutions. Visitors came from among health care professions in Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Some of the questions tackled by panelists included U.S. attitudes toward private capital in the health care sector and the need for the Middle East's pharmaceutical companies to unite and be regulated for quality control. The absence of medical research and development in the Middle East, in spite of the ample resources of some of its countries, was also discussed.

Another point of examination of the Middle East came during a visit by Mahmoud Jibril. He was chairman of the executive board of the National Transitional Council of Libya for seven months last year during a difficult period in that country's continuing, dangerous transition from absolute rule by Col. Moammar Gadhafi to a new democratic order. Mr. Jibril holds a master's degree and a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh, where he spoke on Wednesday.

He returned here partly for nostalgia but also to sensitize Pittsburghers to the Libyan situation, with its difficulties and opportunities. His comments on U.S. policy toward his country were frank and candid, as only those of a returning graduate could be.

The efforts of Pitt and the AMEI should be applauded for making the people and institutions of this region aware of the complexities of the Middle East as it proceeds through the Arab Spring into a new configuration that can profit from links to America.

Through these global outreach efforts Pittsburgh remains very much in the game.

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