* At least 200 hurt in unrest over economic hardship
* Tunisia clinches $500 African Development Bank loan
* Comes on top of $500 million World Bank loan deal
By Francesco Guarascio and Tarek Amara
TUNIS, Nov 28 Tunisia, struggling to ease
economic difficulties that have provoked unrest since its
democratic revolution, said on Wednesday it had secured more
international lending to cover its 2013 spending.
Tunisia's new, elected Islamist-led government has sought to
revive the economy in the face of a decline in trade with the
crisis-hit euro zone and disputes between secularists and
hardline Salafi Islamists over the future direction of the North
African Arab state.
At least 200 people were injured when Tunisians demanding
jobs clashed with police on Tuesday and Wednesday in the city of
Siliana in a region on the edge of the Sahara desert that has
long complained of economic deprivation.
The state news agency TAP said Tunis had clinched a $500
million loan from the African Development Bank, after the World
Bank approved a $500 million loan on Tuesday, and a government
minister told Reuters finances were now in order for 2013.
"Next year our public expenditure is essentially covered,
thanks also to lines of credit for a total of $1 billion from
the World Bank and the African Development Bank," Investment
Minister Riad Bettaieb said on the sidelines of a meeting with a
European Union business delegation.
"So we are not planning to ask for further international
support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF)," he said.
But he said Tunisia could ask the IMF for a standby credit
line worth $2.5 billion for 2014 and beyond. "We are considering
asking the IMF for a precautionary line of credit to give a
guarantee for our financing needs ... around $2.5 billion."
The loans, the World Bank's second since the "Arab Spring"
uprising that toppled autocrat Zain al-Abidine Ben Ali in
January 2011, aim to support economic recovery by improving the
business and financial sectors and reforming social services.
BLINDED BY BIRDSHOT
In Siliana on Wednesday, police fired tear gas and rubber
bullets to disperse crowds who rallied for a second day.
A medic from Siliana Hospital who did not wish to named said
more than 200 people had been injured in the clashes. A
journalist from France 24 television told Reuters he and a
colleague had been hospitalised for wounds from birdshot
apparently fired by riot police.
State media said 17 people had been blinded by birdshot
wounds to the eyes. Residents blocked the entrances to the city,
setting tyres alight on roads.
Many protesters called for the resignation of local
officials, saying the authorities had failed to release
development funds for their region.
Iyed Dahmani, a politician from the Republican Party in the
town, said the national guard - an interior ministry-run
security force - had deployed tanks to help restore order.
Interior Minister Ali Larayed appeared on state television
to call for calm. "I ask people in Siliana to calm down, to
protest calmly and accept dialogue," he said, accusing leftist
politicians of inflaming the situation.
But state TV also showed Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali saying
he would not remove the unpopular governor of the region: "I
won't accept sacking him; he will stay in place."
Jebali has accused both Salafis and liberal elites of
harming Tunisia's economy and image through their conflict with
each other. His Ennahda party has tried to present itself as a
middle way between liberals and Salafis.
The protests are the fiercest since hardline Salafi
Islamists attacked the U.S. embassy in Tunis in September over
an anti-Islam film made in California. That violence left four