Juppe arrives in Tunisia to urge respect of rule of law

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French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe arrived Thursday in Tunisia for a two-day visit during which he is to urge the north African state's new government to respect the rule of law.

Juppe, who is on his second visit to Tunisia in less than a year, was met by his counterpart Rafik Abdessalem, with whom he had his first meeting, official news agency TAP reported.

France's top diplomat is also scheduled to meet Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, as well as members of civil societies and the French community in Tunisia.

Ahead of the visit targeted at "reinforcing bilateral relations and consolidating the privileged partnership between Tunisia and France," Juppe said he would urge the new authorities to respect the rule of law.

"What we said is that we will be vigilant that a number of principles are respected -- respect of all minorities, religious ones in particular, the respect of the status of women, and that's the message that I am sending to our Tunisian friends," he told I-tele on Tuesday.

Juppe's call was met with mixed reception, with commentary in some media pointing out that Paris had supported the regime of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali until the end.

Ben Ali's regime was toppled by mass protests on January 14 last year while Tunisia's new government headed by Jebali of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party was sworn in on December 24.

© 2012 AFP

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