U.S. to help Tunisia with reforms

Jan. 25, 2011 at 2:30 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. diplomats are in Tunisia to help the country lay the groundwork for democratic elections in the wake of the revolution, a State Department spokesman said.

Washington dispatched Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, to Tunisia to discuss political developments with the country's foreign minister.

President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, following a suicide-inspired revolution, fled to Saudi Arabia after more than 20 years in office.

P.J. Crowley, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said Feltman was there to discuss how the U.S. government could be constructive in paving the way toward greater political and social freedoms in Tunisia.

The interim government in Tunisia said it would have elections within six months, though no specific date was mentioned.

Feltman, said Crowley during his regular press briefing, is there to help coordinate support for the Tunisians to "help them prepare for elections, where obviously, there's not a history of free and fair elections."

Mohamed Ali Harrath, the secretary-general of the Tunisian Islamic Front, told London's pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that his supporters were considering forming an official political party in the wake of the Ben Ali regime.

"What we want, and hope from God almighty, is that Islam will shine from Tunisia once again," he was quoted as saying.

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