TUNIS, Dec 3 (AFP) – French President Jacques Chirac was due Wednesday to start a three-day state visit to Tunisia, where he will hold talks with President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on topics ranging from cooperation, the situation in the Middle East and the global war on terror.
Human rights will also come up for discussion between the two leaders, said a spokeswoman for the French presidency, Catherine Colonna.
The Tunisian government has come in for frequent criticism – notably from abroad – for alleged torture and repression of rights.
Chirac, who is accompanied on the trip by his wife Bernadette, five government ministers and a group of French businessmen, will also visit a technology centre near Tunis, pay tribute to French soldiers at a military cemetery in Gammarth, a northern suburb of the capital, and meet ordinary Tunisians in Tunis.
Newspapers in the north African country on Tuesday welcomed the French leader’s visit, calling Chirac “a friend of Tunisia.”
Le Renouveau newspaper, which largely follows the line of the governing Democratic Constitutional Rally party, wrote that Chirac’s visit “reflects the excellent state of Tunisia’s privileged relations with France.”
Le Quotidien de Tunis (Tunis Daily) agreed that relations between the two countries are “exemplary and privileged”, adding that France and Tunisia share the same views on key international issues.
“In the face of rising uncertainty and the tensions rocking the world,
Tunisia and France both favour the wisdom of dialogue between peoples and militate in favour of international law, which is a rampart for preserving peace and stability in the world,” it wrote.
Le Temps took the economic tack, writing: “France represents an unparalleled and obligatory business partner for Tunisia.”
On the sidelines of Chirac’s visit, three consular accords are to be signed, along with one pact on tourism. Most foreign visitors to Tunisia come from France, according to Le Temps newspaper, which also noted that most Tunisians who emigrate choose to settle in France.
After his state visit, Chirac will remain in Tunis, where he will take part in a two-day summit of 10 southern European Union and north African states, which is likely to focus on illegal immigration, the threat from militant Islam and deepening trans-Mediterranean cooperation.
Subject: French news