Spain to open 300-mn-euro credit line for Tunisia

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Spain is ready to open a 300-million-euro ($420 million) credit line to Tunisia to support its economy during its political transition, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Wednesday.

"Spain is ready to put into place, together with the European Investment Bank, a credit line of 300 million euros to facilitate the process of economic recovery ... for the next three years," Zapatero said during a visit to Tunis.

Tunisians ousted long-time ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January.

Despite introducing unprecedented freedoms and pledging elections by mid-July Tunisia's interim administration has been heavily criticised, facing weeks of protests including over its inclusion of key figures from Ben Ali's regime.

Interim prime minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, who held the same post under Ben Ali, quit on Sunday after clashes at weekend anti-government demonstrations left five people dead.

Two ministers followed him on Monday and three more on Tuesday.

Zapatero emphasised that the objective of his one-day visit was to "support the process of democratic change taking place in Tunisia and the Arab world."

Insisting that Spain has no desire to interfere, Zapatero said: "Tunisia and north Africa have a need for a process of financial support that should have a component of public aid via European financial institutions and a private component."

Zapatero held a meeting with interim president Foued Mebazaa and was expected to meet with heads of opposition parties.

© 2011 AFP

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