Bush thanks Ben Ali, urges an open political process
Tunisia-USA, Politics, 2/19/2004
The Tunisian President Zine al-Abidin Ben Ali, who announced several days ago he will recommend the American President George Bush, upon visiting him in Washington, on the best ways to " fight terrorism," got a call from his American counterpart during their meeting yesterday at the White House to make democratic reforms in Tunisia.
At the beginning of the meeting, Bush told Ben Ali " I am happy to dialogue with you on the need of having alive, free press and an open political process." He considered that Tunisia have achieved reforms especially in the areas of education, and human rights. He expressed his satisfaction over the support given by Tunisia for fighting terrorism and for founding a "democratic Iraq." He said "I want to thank you for understanding the need of founding a democratic and free Iraq."
He continued "I express my appreciation because you have a modern educational system and women in your country enjoy equal rights." But the American President added that "Tunisia can help the Middle east in introducing reforms and liberalism. A matter which is necessary to establish peace on the long run." Ben Ali answered that the US and Tunisia "share the principles that countries are to be built on democratic principles, human rights and fighting terrorism." He added "we believe that Tunisia is an alley for the US and that relations between our two countries have strategic dimensions."
However, the spokesman for the White House said earlier that Bush intends to urge Ben Ali to make democratic reforms in his country, noting that "Tunisia has achieved some progress in the field of economic and social reforms including matters relating to women's rights. But more has to be done, and President ( Bush) has not hid this position." However, "Human Rights Watch" in defense of human rights said that the visit of the Tunisian President to Washington should be an opportunity in which President Bush condemns the policy of oppression pursued by Tunisia, should Bush wants his plan " to encourage democracy in the Middle East" to be taken seriously.
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