RPT/Tunisia expects IMF deal in May, sukuk issue in July -report

Mon Apr 1, 2013 8:17am EDT

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TUNIS, April 1 (Reuters) - Tunisia expects to sign a $1.7 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund next month after a delay due to the crisis that followed the killing of an opposition politician in February, the finance minister was quoted as saying on Monday.

A report on Al-Arabiya television quoted Elyess Fakhfakh as saying the precautionary loan agreement would be reached "by May".

Last week, the IMF said it would send a team to Tunis between April 8 and 15 to discuss the loan.

Tunisia plunged into crisis on Feb. 6 as the assassination of secular politician Chokri Belaid ignited the biggest street protests since the overthrow of strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali two years ago. But a new government has now been formed and protests have died down.

Al-Arabiya also quoted Fakhfakh as saying Tunisia planned to issue its first sovereign sukuk, or Islamic bond, in July to raise $700 million.

Tunisia's government, led by moderate Islamists, is keen to develop Islamic finance, which was neglected for ideological reasons by Ben Ali's government. A Tunisian sukuk issue could potentially attract large amounts of Islamic funds from the wealthy Gulf.

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