U.S. offers support in Tunisia elections

Jan. 26, 2011 at 9:31 AM

TUNIS, Tunisia, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The United States will provide support, if requested, to help Tunisia conduct an election after the ouster of its longtime leader, the State Department said.

Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said Washington offered the African country's new government "whatever support is appropriate and requested" for an election after the ouster of Tunisia's longtime ruler, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Even as the transitional government promised to conduct balloting in six months, it faces mounting opposition to including Cabinet members of former president, who fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia Jan. 14.

Feltman, who served as a diplomat in Tunisia from 1998 to 2000, said the political schism "symbolizes a new spirit" in the country, the Times reported Tuesday.

"What's going to give any government real credibility are elections," Feltman said from the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. "To get to credible elections after having a system that so restricted the role of civil society and political parties is going to take some time and effort."

He said he informed Tunisian ministers that Washington backs efforts to release political prisoners, end media restrictions and remove bans on political parties before the election.

"We have long called for greater political space in Tunisia," he said.

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