28 June 2012

Tunisia: 'Nation Fortunate to Have Very Professional Army,' Says U.S. Ambassador

Tunis — US Ambassador to Tunisia Gordon Gray held, on Thursday afternoon on the occasion of the end of his mission in the country, a round-table discussion which was attended by the US embassy's new press attaché Stephen Kochuba and representatives of national media.

During the meeting, the US Ambassador said that he had been honoured to serve in Tunisia over the last three years, especially at that "momentous time of Tunisia's history," hailing the Revolution and the democratic elections of October 23, 2011.

Mr. Gray said that the American people support Tunisia's transition, quoting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, last May 17, on the occasion of signing the one-hundred-million-dollar cash transfer agreement to help Tunisia pay back part of its debt to international financial institutions, as saying: "We are proud to be your partner and help Tunisia shape its better future."

The US Ambassador went on pointing out that the US is in the process of designing an eight-million-dollar information technology programme.

Regarding trade, Mr. Gray said that the two governments have had good talks on the trade investment framework agreement. The US Congress extended the General System of Trade Preferences allowing Tunisian exporters to export about 3,000 goods to the US duty free.

As to the military relations, he said that the two countries are developing close co-operation ties, underscoring that the US is "happy to provide material support of US origin to the Tunisian military, including F5 aircrafts."

Mr. Gray went on saying that the US did not play any military role in last week's destruction of three trucks smuggling weapons in the Tataouine desert, stressing that the Tunisian people are "fortunate to have a very professional Army" which proved to be very competent during the Revolution, the transition and its last operations in the country's south.

In the humanitarian field, the US Ambassador spoke of a number of humanitarian assistance projects that are being carried out throughout the country, including health clinics, training centres for the blind, the ambulances donated, etc., adding that the US is bringing the Peace Corps volunteers back to Tunisia.

As to education, Mr. Gray said that the US administration is increasing the number of university linkages to 10 different higher-education institutions. The US is launching an educational programme called the "Yes Programme" through which 30 high school students will be sent to the US to study for one year.

The American Ambassador stressed that "objective journalism" is important for democracy, saying that the US government is providing assistance to the Tunisian Press and Information Sciences Institute (IPSI): 800,000 dinars will be dedicated for the procurement of equipments, computers, television studios, adding that 9 IPSI students will be sent to the United States for internships.

As to security situation, Mr. Gray said that he felt comfortable and secure during his trips nationwide, be it for professional or personal reasons. He added he had the opportunity to speak to American academics, tourists and businessmen, and encouraged them to visit and invest in Tunisia.

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