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We don't seek to export democracy in Middle East: Tunisian foreign minister

Delhi,Diplomacy, Tue, 24 Apr 2012 IANS

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) As a country where the Arab Spring began, Tunisia is not keen to "export" it to the region but cannot help if neighbours take it as an example, says the country's foreign minister.




"The way things happened in Tunisia (we) not necessarily wanted to export (it). Political situation is different, ethnic situation is different (in each country) and cannot transpose one situation on the other... Can't help if neighbours taking Tunisia as an example," Hedi Ben Abbas, the country's minister of state for foreign affairs, said here.


He said his government also was responsibile for the success of the "democratic process" underway in his country.


"If we do not succeed in Tunisia, chances of success in neighbouring countries is very low," Abbas said Monday in a talk at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) at Sapru House and added that the democratic process should succeed so as to become a basis of good governance in the region.


He said the country needs to have a constitution that has space to adapt to the changing world.


Abbas, on a two-day visit to India, said his country did not want to export its revolution and democratic churning to other countries in the region but could not help if neighbours were taking it as an example.


Street protests began in Tunisia in December 2010 over unemployment, corruption and high food prices and escalated in January 2011 culminating in president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fleeing the country after 23 years of authoritarian rule.


Elections for a constituent assembly elections were held in October 2011. The constituent assembly is charged with drafting a new constitution and preparing for legislative and presidential elections. The country has a coalition government which includes Islamists, secularists and leftists.


Abbas said the preamble of the constitution would mention that Tunisia is a Muslim country and its language is Arabic but the document would not have a religious colour.


"We are a composite society. Tunisia was hub of a number of different civilisations," he said.


Abbas said the country needed "a constitution that has space to adapt itself to changing world". He said that women always had a special status in the country and "the new constitution is going to push it a little bit further".


He said his country had a lot to learn from India's experience in managing a multi-ethnic society.


Abbas, who also took questions at the end of his talk, said the government was taking steps to bring back money illegally transferred out of Tunisia. To concerns about the growth of Salafism, a radical vision of political Islam, he said it was "a very very small group".


Arab Spring was a string of uprisings in the Arab world that began in December 2010 with the self-immolation by vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi, who lived in the provincial town of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia. It ultimately forced out the rulers from power in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and caused unrest in Bahrain and Syria.


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