France to turn Tunisia debt into development

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Associated Press

Posted on July 5, 2013 at 9:01 AM

Updated Friday, Jul 5 at 10:32 AM

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — France's president proposed Friday taking at least some of Tunisia's one billion euros ($1.3 billion) in debt to his country and using it for development projects.

Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring pro-democracy movement, has been hard hit economically since the revolution and has been forced to borrow from the International Monetary Fund.

Speaking to Tunisia's elected assembly, Francois Hollande promised to also mobilize fellow G-8 countries and the European Union to help the ailing economy.

On the second day of his first official visit to this North African country he also announced 500 million euros ($644.15 million) in aid and investment for Tunisia during the 2013-2014 period.

At the G-8's 2011 meeting in Deauville, France, some $40 billion in aid and investment were promised to the countries involved in the Arab Spring, including Tunisia. However, little of the funding has materialized so far.

Hollande's two-day visit is aimed at repairing relations with Tunisia. His predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, had close ties with dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was overthrown in January 2011.

Hollande added that Tunisia, which is ruled by moderate Islamists elected after the revolution, showed Islam and democracy were compatible. He said the country was a symbol of hope for the region.

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