U.S.-Iran spat mars Tunisia constitution party

TUNIS Fri Feb 7, 2014 12:26pm EST

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TUNIS (Reuters) - A U.S. delegation walked out of celebrations for Tunisia's new constitution in protest on Friday after an Iranian official criticized the United States and Israel in his address to guests in Tunis.

The ceremony, which included French President Francois Hollande and other foreign dignitaries, was meant to mark Tunisia's newly adopted constitution, widely praised as a model for the region.

Three years after its uprising inspired the "Arab Spring" revolts across the region, Tunisia is progressing to full democracy with a new charter and caretaker government in charge until elections later this year.

Addressing the ceremony at the National Assembly, Iran's parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani referred to Israel as a "cancer" in the region and accused it and the United States of trying to "sterilize" the Arab Spring revolutions.

"What was intended to be a ceremony honoring Tunisia's achievements was used by the Iranian representative as a platform to denounce the United States," the U.S. embassy in Tunis said in statement.

The U.S. delegation left after the "false accusations and inappropriate comments", it said.

While Tunisia has advanced towards democracy, other countries such as Libya and Egypt have struggled with unrest and violence since overthrowing their long-ruling autocratic rulers.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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