Tunisia PM urges West to underwrite democracy

AFP , Friday 27 Jan 2012

Tunisia’s PM Hamadi Jebali and his Moroccan counterpart Abdelilah Benkirane call the West to back democratization efforts in both states during the Davos forum in Switzerland

Abdelilah Benkirane, left, chief of government of Marocco and Tunisian Prime Minister Hammadi Jebali attend a panel session at the 42nd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. (Photo:AP)

Tunisia's new Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali urged the West on Friday to help underwrite the nascent democracy, saying the birthplace of the Arab Spring was moving to guarantee fundamental rights.

"I appeal here in Davos to those who are listening. We are asking for your support as we do not have sufficient means to stand on our own," he said during a debate on governance in north Africa at the Davos forum in Switzerland.

"We are counting on the support of our friends in Europe and the United States. Tunisia is a country which is open to all our neighbours, in particular the Europeans," said Jebali on his first venture on the world stage since he took office in December.

The prime minister, a moderate Islamist, was speaking a little over a year after the fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the wake of a mass uprising which was later replicated in a quarter of the Arab world.

A new constituent assembly is now working on a new constitution which Jebali said would cement vital freedoms.

"It is the first time that we have been able to build a democratic state, with the first step a constitution that will establish our democracy," he said.

The constitution would "guarantee civil liberties and human rights, forbid torture, guarantee the independence of the judiciary, protect the freedom of the press, guarantee the freedom of religion, ensure sexual equality and protect women's rights."

He said Tunisia should serve as a beacon "of hope for the future of the Arab Spring and world peace".

His Moroccan counterpart Abdelilah Benkirane, whose government was sworn in byy parliament on Thursday, also appealed for Western investment in the same debate, saying he wanted to pursue a reform programme "for the poor and needy".

"We are very open. We can now guarantee your interests and investments much more than in the past. What more do you want?", he added.

"Our interests complement each other. We need investment. We are looking to you."

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