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Tunisia looks to win back tourists with image makeover

Tunisia is working against the clock to salvage its 2014 tourist season after three turbulent years, by revamping the country's image -- with the help of online media and a few Star Wars characters. "To change a country from one that is relatively inexpensive to a top-end tourist destination will take 10 or 15 years," said Amel Karboul, Tunisia's new tourism minister.

Arab League: a factfile

The Arab League, whose annual summit opens in Kuwait on Tuesday, represents over 370 million people in 22 countries, including Syria which was suspended in 2011 over its brutal response to protests. The pan-Arab bloc was created in Cairo on March 22, 1945. It comprises Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Palestine, currently represented by the Palestinian Authority.

Deadly sectarian violence cripples Algeria desert city

Daily life has ground to a halt in Ghardaia, a picturesque Algerian city on the edge of the Sahara turned into a ghost town by a wave of sectarian violence. The UNESCO world heritage site, some 600 kilometres (370 miles) south of Algiers, has been rocked since December by clashes between the Chaamba community of Arab origin and the majority Mozabites, indigenous Berbers belonging to the Ibadi Muslim sect.

Tunisia Salafist gets suspended sentence for unauthorised preaching

A Tunisian court has given a controversial hardline Salafist a three-month suspended prison sentence for preaching at a mosque without permission, a judicial source said Friday. The ruling comes as authorities seek to regain control of certain mosques they say have fallen under the influence of radical Islamists. The district court in Mateur, in northern Bizerte province, "gave Khamis Mejri a three-month suspended jail sentence, and he is still being prosecuted in three separate cases," said Mongi Boulares, spokesman for the public prosecutor in Bizerte.

US urges Sudan to safeguard rights after student demo death

The United States on Thursday urged Sudan to safeguard the right of peaceful assembly, after security forces allegedly shot and killed a university student. Ali Abaker Mussa Idris died on Tuesday following a University of Khartoum demonstration for peace in Sudan's violence-plagued Darfur region. "The cornerstone of a democracy is the ability for citizens to exercise their right to peacefully assemble and express their views without fear of retribution," the US embassy said in a statement expressing "deep regret" at the loss of life and injuries.

Tear gas confronts 'revolution' call at Sudan funeral

Sudanese police fired tear gas Wednesday when mourners called for "revolution" following the funeral of a student allegedly gunned down by security forces at a protest against violence in Darfur. The incident came after about 1,000 mourners had buried Ali Abaker Mussa Idris in a south Khartoum cemetery. An AFP reporter said police resorted to tear gas as the angry crowd, shouting anti-government slogans, began moving out of the burial ground.

Tear gas confronts 'revolution' call at Sudan funeral

Sudanese police fired tear gas Wednesday when mourners called for "revolution" following the funeral of a student allegedly gunned down by security forces at a protest against violence in Darfur. The incident came after about 1,000 mourners had buried Ali Abaker Mussa Idris in a south Khartoum cemetery. An AFP reporter said police resorted to tear gas as the angry crowd, shouting anti-government slogans, began moving out of the burial ground.

Japan offers Tunisia 335 mn euros in loans

Japan plans to provide Tunisia with two loans worth 335 million euros ($465 million) to support the country's "democratisation," Senior Vice Foreign Minister Nabuo Kishi said Tuesday during a visit to Tunis. One loan will finance construction of an electrical power plant in Rades, south of the capital, while the other will be for a project to prevent flooding by Tunisia's biggest river, the Oued Medjerda, the Japanese embassy said in a statement. The loans, with an annual interest rate of only 0.6 percent, will be repayable over 40 years, with a 10-year grace period.

Tunisia prostitutes petition parliament to return to work

A group of Tunisian prostitutes demanded Tuesday to be allowed back to work, 18 months after their brothel in the resort town of Sousse was attacked by hardline Salafists and closed down. A delegation handed deputy parliament speaker Meherzia Laabidi, a woman, a petition signed by 120 prostitutes calling for their brothel in the popular coastal resort to be allowed to reopen.

Women's Day event denied permission in Sudan

Sudanese authorities refused permission for an International Women's Day event in Khartoum, an activist said on Sunday, despite President Omar al-Bashir's vow that freedoms should be respected. The March 8 event -- marked around the world -- had been held without incident for the past eight years at Khartoum's Nubian Club, women's activist Fahima Hashim told AFP. "We didn't get the permission" from state security agents for Saturday's planned event, she said.
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