Saudi Arabia pledges to provide support for Tunisia, Tunisian presidency says

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Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in Tunis, Tunisia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo/File Photo

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TUNIS, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia pledged on Sunday to provide assistance to Tunisia, which is suffering a political, economic and health crisis, the Tunisian presidency said on Sunday, the latest sign of support for President Kais Saied against his Islamist opponents.

Saudi State Minister for African Affairs Ahmed Abdul Aziz Kattan met Saied in Tunis and senior officials held talks afterward to discuss cooperation, the presidency said in a statement.

Saied last month dismissed his prime minister, froze parliament and assumed executive authority in a sudden intervention that his Islamist opponents have labeled a coup but that he said was necessary to save the country from collapse.

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The statement did not give any details of the assistance that could be provided by Saudi Arabia, which has reiterated that it supports Saied's decisions aimed at protecting the country.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz said earlier this month that his country would give Tunisia one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and Saudi has also established an air bridge to provide medical aid for the North Africa country.

Tunisia is struggling with an unprecedented fiscal deficit, which reached 11.4% last year.

It is also on the verge of bankruptcy, needing at least $3 billion this year to pay off foreign debts and the wages of hundreds of thousands of employees in the public sector.

Some Gulf states saw Saied's intervention as undermining the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which they regard as their main regional foe, and which is close to the biggest party in Tunisia's now frozen parliament.

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Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Frances Kerry and Jan Harvey

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