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 British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid