TUNIS (Reuters) - Washington has offered Tunisia help in shoring up security following its “model” revolution, U.S. Senator John McCain said Monday.
A popular uprising in the North African state last month ended President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s 23 years of rule, sending shock waves through the Arab world and inspiring further revolts, one of which toppled Egypt’s president 10 days ago.
“The revolution in Tunisia has been very successful and it has become a model for the region,” McCain, the leading Republican on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, told Reuters after meetings with Tunisian government officials.
“We stand ready to provide training to help Tunisia’s military to provide security,” he said.
Elections to replace Ben Ali are expected by July or August. But new protests have erupted in recent days against the interim government tasked with organizing the vote for failing to address rising crime rates and lingering poverty.
Tunisia’s ouster of Ben Ali -- widely seen as a repressive ruler who raided state coffers -- inspired Egypt’s uprising and has also encouraged mass demonstrations elsewhere in the Arab world, including in neighboring Libya where scores of people have been shot dead by security forces.
U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, traveling with McCain, said the situation in Libya was “tragic.”
“The Tunisian military played a constructive role (...) but the military in Libya has been against the people,” Lieberman told Reuters. “That is unacceptable.”
Earlier Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a press briefing that Tunisia had a chance to provide a positive model for other countries seeking reform if it can avoid pitfalls on the path to elections.
He said the interim government needed to make constitutional changes and set up institutions to ensure the rule of law for the election to ensure that it passes smoothly.
“We moved into a multi-party system in Turkey in 1946 and our first elections were in 1950,” he said. “In Tunisia, there are risks because everything is happening so fast.”
Davutoglu, who is also the current president of the Council of Europe, was in Tunisia along with council Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland for a meeting with Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi. Jagland said Tunisia’s ability to set smooth elections was crucial for its trade ties with Europe.
“It is very important that these processes are entertained in a way that everybody in this society can believe in and have trust in,” he said. “This is the only way to come closer to Europe and to form the basis of any economic progress,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Ghannouchi said he was happy with international support for Tunisia’s transition.