Qatari money not enough: Washington supports Ennahda government
WASHINGTON - The United States plans to grant $100 million to Tunisia to help the transitioning democracy pay its debts and focus on boosting its economy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.
The aid still needs approval from Congress. Clinton said the United States was also negotiating a separate package in which Washington would offer loan guarantees to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in capital for Tunisia.
Clinton, who spoke by telephone Wednesday with Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, said the aid would let Tunisia pay down debts to the World Bank and African Development Bank left over from dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year regime.
The $100 million US cash transfer will allow Tunisia "to instead use this money for its priority programs, accelerating economic growth and job creation," Clinton said in a statement.
"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, ensure that democracy delivers for the Tunisian people, and to help Tunisian businesses -- large and small -- become engines of job creation," Clinton said.
"We call on other partners in the international community to join us in supporting Tunisia and ensuring economic opportunities for more Tunisian people," she said.
Tunisians, inspired by a fruit vendor who set himself on fire after humiliation by authorities, took to the streets and ousted Ben Ali in January 2011.
The uprising spawned the so-called Arab Spring that has contributed to the ouster of authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya and Yemen and helped fuel a bloody one-year uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
President Barack Obama's administration has put a top priority on building relations with the new democracies in the Arab world.
Despite past US support for Ben Ali, the United States has maintained friendly relations with Tunisia's new government and welcomed its hosting of a major international meeting on Syria in February.