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U.N. head offers help to Tunisians

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The United Nations is ready to help Tunisians hold credible elections in their troubled country, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday.

In his address to the summit of the African Union in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, Ban called for an inclusive interim government in Tunisia where public protest and demonstrations this month ended the long regime of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and forced him to flee his North African nation.

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"We at the United Nations will be pleased to help the people of Tunisia freely choose their leaders through timely and credible elections," Ban told the AU meeting, U.N. News said.

The secretary-general also urged restraint and respect for human rights in Egypt, another country hit by growing public unrest directed against the government of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for 30 years.

Ban said leaders around the world "must listen attentively, more attentively, more sincerely -- to the voice of the people, their aspirations, their hopes for a better future," adding the "winds of change" are blowing throughout Africa, where people are becoming empowered through elections and economic transformation.

"The new narrative for Africa is a story of growth. Even the economic and financial crisis has not held you back. Africa is rebounding stronger and faster than anticipated," he said.

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