News / Africa

Obama Holds First White House Meeting With Arab Spring Leader

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, October 7, 2011.
President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, October 7, 2011.

In his first White House meeting with a leader of an Arab Spring country, President Barack Obama and Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi discussed that country's democratization process and economic needs.

Tunisia was the spark for the wave of popular uprisings that spread across North Africa and the Middle East, leading to the ouster of long-time dictatorial leaders in Egypt and Libya, demonstrations in Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, with global repercussions.

Essebsi was a key official in the former government, and has led Tunisia since former Tunisian dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali was ousted early this year.

The Oval Office meeting was President Barack Obama's first there with an Arab Spring leader. The president met in New York last month with Libyan Transitional National Council leaders attending the U.N. General Assembly.

The president said Tunisia, starting with the actions of a street vendor angered by government policies who took his own life, led the transformation in the region.

"Tunisia has been an inspiration to all of us who believe that each individual man and woman, has certain inalienable rights, and that those rights must be recognized in a government that is responsive, is democratic, in which free and fair elections can take place, and in which the rights of minorities are protected," said Obama.

Speaking through an interpreter, Prime Minister Essebsi said President Obama was the first leader to welcome the change that took place in Tunisia last February and its importance for the entire region.

Essebsi said the success of the Arab Spring across the entire region depends on its outcome in Tunisia.

"Up until now the Arab Spring is really only the Tunisian spring. So what I do hope is that this Arab Spring will not limit itself exclusively to Tunisia, and that it will spread throughout the region and that of course depends on the economic and political success of Tunisia," said Essebsi.

In two weeks, Tunisians will vote in the first elections held in any Arab Spring country, with more than 100 parties running candidates for a new national assembly that will write a constitution.

Obama's press secretary Jay Carney had this response in Friday's news briefing to a reporter asking about U.S. concerns that the democratic process in Tunisia could be derailed on the way to the October 23 elections.

"If you are asking me generally speaking in the whole region, is this process tenuous, well I think in general it has to be because this is significant, significant change," said Carney.

Laying out U.S. policy last May toward the Middle East and Arab Spring, Obama said Egypt and Tunisia would be the focus of a new U.S. effort to promote reform across the region.

The U.S. with international partners and financial institutions are working on economic stabilization programs and debt relief, and "enterprise funds" to boost investment in Tunisia and Egypt.

Saying the United States has an "enormous stake" in Tunisia's success, Obama said he and Essebsi discussed a package of loan guarantees and other assistance, on top of $39 million provided so far, to encourage investment and offer more opportunities for young people to find jobs.

Opinion polls in Tunisia say an Islamist party could get the most votes in the upcoming elections.

In recent media interviews, Essebsi underscored the importance of gradual reforms and tolerance in Tunisia's political process, and sought to ease concerns about election gains by Islamists.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid