Hollande to visit Tunisia, 'encourage' Arab Spring pioneer

AFP , Wednesday 3 Jul 2013

The French president will be accompanied by about 10 ministers during his two-day visit to Tunisia

French President Francois Hollande will start a two-day visit to Tunisia on Thursday to deliver a message of "encouragement" to the pioneer of the Arab Spring revolution which toppled several dictators in the region.

The trip comes amid fresh tensions in Libya and Egypt, two countries also changed forever by the Arab Spring, which according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, "has the most chances of succeeding" in Tunisia.

"It's not a very big country, but it is quite developed, there is a traditional respect for women and it has economic resources but it needs aid," Fabius said on the I-tele network.

Hollande will deliver a "message of encouragement" during his visit, his entourage said.

The French leader will be accompanied by about 10 ministers. Notably absent is Interior Minister Manuel Valls who had spoken of "Islamic fascism" a day after Tunisian opposition figure Chokri Belaid was assassinated on February 6.

The delegation will also comprise a team of business leaders.

The North African country's political stability remains fragile, two and a half years after the revolution that ousted veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. It is now trying to draw up a post-revolution constitution.

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