U.S. backs $500 million in loan guarantees for Tunisia

WASHINGTON Fri Apr 4, 2014 2:55pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama and Tunisia's Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa shake hands in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, April 4, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama and Tunisia's Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa shake hands in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, April 4, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday said it would provide a new loan guarantee for Tunisia worth about $500 million as part of a continuing effort to help the North African nation recover following its 2011 uprising.

President Barack Obama, speaking ahead of a meeting with Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa at the White House, said the loan guarantees will help ensure that Tunisia has a "society that can thrive" and that its "economy begins to move forward with reform."

The loan guarantee comes more than three years after street protests drove longtime Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from power in 2011, sparking a wave of similar uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East.

The U.S. previously guaranteed a Tunisian bond sale that raised $485 million in 2012.

Obama said Friday's action would help the country tackle border security and continue counter-terrorism efforts, among other things.

"The United States has a huge investment in making sure Tunisia's experiment is successful," Obama said, speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting in the Oval Office.

Jomaa welcomed the financial support, saying it would help his country achieve "stability and democracy."

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Steve Holland; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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