President Moncef Marzouki said Wednesday that Tunisia had not fallen into Islamist hands and was pursuing democracy in the wake of its popular uprising, as he addressed France's National Assembly.
"The question I am often asked is 'Has Tunisia fallen into the hands of Islamism? The answer is no, Tunisia has fallen into the hands of democracy," Marzouki said to applause from French lawmakers.
Following the uprising that ousted strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last year, Tunisia's Ennahda party, a movement inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, took power with 41 percent of the seats in the National Constituent Assembly.
At a congress on Sunday, the party adopted a resolution stressing its "centrist" and "moderate" position.
Marzouki was the first foreign leader to address the French assembly since 2006, as part of a three-day visit aimed at rebuilding Tunisia's ties with its former colonial master.
Relations were strained by France's slow and confused response to the popular revolt, but in his speech Marzouki nonetheless expressed "gratitude" to France.
"A fraction of official France supported the dictatorship," he said. "But the majority, the essential part of France... supported us as much as it could and accompanied us as far as possible until the tyrant fell," he said