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Obama Names Tunisia Major Non-NATO Ally

FILE - 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 named Tunisia a major non-NATO ally Friday, making it eligible for closer strategic and military cooperation with the United States.

Obama said during a visit by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi in May that he wanted "the president and people of Tunisia to know that the United States believes in Tunisia, is invested in its success and will work as a steady partner for years to come."

Tunisia overthrew President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, becoming the first country during the so-called Arab Spring to rid itself of a longtime dictatorship.

Last December, Essebsi became Tunisia's first democratically elected leader since the country won independence from France in 1956.

Despite a growing democracy, Tunisia still must deal with the threat of terrorism. Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for last week's massacre of 38 foreign tourists at a Tunisian beach resort and the March terror attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis that left 21 dead.