U.S. to give $100 million to boost Tunisia finances: Clinton

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 29, 2012 9:25 AM
U.S. to give $100 million to boost Tunisia finances: Clinton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will give Tunisia $100 million to buttress short-term government finances as the country negotiates a democratic transition following last year's popular uprising, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday.

Clinton said that, pending congressional notification and approval, the U.S. money would go directly to debt that Tunisia owes the World Bank and the African Development Bank, freeing Tunis to concentrate on its own priority programs and job creation.

"As Tunisia progresses into the next phase of its historic democratic transition, the United States is working to help accelerate economic growth that benefits all," Clinton said in a statement.

The U.S. cash transfer comes alongside a sovereign loan guarantee now being negotiated between Washington and Tunis that aims to use $30 million from the United States to open up access to several hundred million dollars in new financing from international capital markets.

The United States has frequently cited Tunisia as a model for democratic change in the Middle East after a popular revolt forced autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country on January 14, 2011, touching off a wave of political unrest across the Arab world.

The North African country has since calmly elected its own government, defying predictions it would descend into chaos, while Ben Ali's secret police have been disbanded and the news media enjoy unprecedented freedoms.

The Obama administration announced plans last month to extend more than $800 million in economic assistance to countries swept up in the "Arab Spring" revolutions.

Officials said the bulk of this would be new money to support long-term economic, political and trade reforms for countries in transition such as Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.

(Reporting By Andrew Quinn; Editing by Vicki Allen and Philip Barbara)