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Germany promises Tunisia investment for reforms


German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle pledged Tuesday further investment and aid for Tunisia if it stays on track in turning its Arab Spring revolution into a democratic success story.

Westerwelle, representing Europe's top economy, was the first Western minister to meet Prime Minister Ali Larayedh since the moderate Islamist took office on Thursday amid continued unrest in the north African country.

"Violence, extremists and fanatics must not form the image of Tunisia but rather respect, democracy, the rule of law and tolerance and we want to help," Westerwelle told reporters.

"I am not here to give ultimatums but to express friendship, solidarity and support. But it is obvious -- the more stable, reliable and democratic the development of the country, the easier it will be for European and German investments to come to Tunisia."

Tunisian Foreign Minister Othmane Jarandi said the country sought "economic support from its friends" because its needs were "very urgent and extensive".

He said he hoped Germany's backing would send a message to "other friendly countries" to trust and support the new government "in this important phase".

Tunisia, the first Arab Spring country to experience regime change, in January 2011, was plunged into turmoil last month by the murder of leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid, an outspoken critic of the ruling Islamists.

Belaid's assassination deepened a political crisis in the country two years after ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in a popular uprising that touched off revolutions throughout the region.

Larayedh, who leads an uneasy coalition between the Islamists and two secular parties, has pledged to end the upheaval this year by adopting a new constitution, organising elections, creating conditions for a revival of the economy and restoring security.