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German support for new North Africa underlined

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German support for new North Africa underlined
Photo: DPA
07:00 CET+01:00
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has thrown strong support behind North Africa's emerging democracies during an historic visit to Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, saying Germany wants to play a key role in helping them succeed.

Westerwelle, who wrapped up his weekend trip with a visit to Tunisia's capital Tunis on Monday, singled out the country for particular praise, calling it a potential “model,” despite European concerns that Islamic parties are growing in strength there.

“I think the concerns have absolutely no justification,” Westerwelle said. “Tunisia can become a model for transformation in the region if it succeeds in perpetuating the fledgling democratization process”

Germany has pledged €32 million in aid to Tunisia and is helping the country reschedule €60 million in debt, said Westerwelle, who also called for deepening economic ties between the two countries.

Westerwelle's travels have been portrayed as an important signal that Berlin is willing to invest key resources in the attempt to help democratic governments in North Africa.

This comes after Germany took a largely hands-off approach in the “Arab Spring” series of revolutions. Germany upset many allies by refusing to play a military role in NATO's military campaign that eventually toppled Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

Berlin has, though, offered significant material and financial support to new governments – including an offer of more than €100 million in humanitarian aid to Libya where German doctors are already working.

In Tripoli, Westerwelle pledged continuing assistance on Sunday, saying “Germany stands beside this new Libya.”

Amidst his democracy-building travels, the Foreign Minister has had strong words for Iranian authorities who have become isolated from the West because of their alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.

On Monday he called a death sentence reportedly handed down to a man in Tehren suspected of spying for the CIA “in no way acceptable.”

“It is too early to judge the ruling as a whole ... but based on what we know I can only say: The verdict is in no way acceptable in terms of the sentence and the opinion issued by the court,” Westerwelle said.

The Local/DPA/AFP/mdm

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