After a crisis last year brought on by the killing of two
opposition leaders, Tunisia's transition got back on track when it
adopted a new constitution last month and ruling Islamists stepped
down for a caretaker administration to govern until elections this
Kerry's visit was meant to highlight progress made since the 2011
uprising that brought down autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and the
compromises new Tunisian leaders, unlike their Egyptian and Libyan
counterparts, have made, U.S. officials said.
"What's positive and even inspiring in Tunisia is the demonstrated
willingness not to take power, and hold on to it, and see it as a
zero sum game, but to find some degree of compromise," a senior U.S.
official told reporters as Kerry flew to Tunis.
Kerry was also likely address the many challenges facing the North
African nation, among them persistent violence by Islamist militants
whose leader has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda's North African
wing, officials added.
During his meetings with the Tunisian president and prime minister
on Tuesday, Kerry plans to urge the government to do more to arrest
and prosecute those responsible for a 2012 attack on the U.S.
embassy in Tunis, U.S. officials told reporters traveling with him.
Tunisia's security forces have been battling militants from the
banned Islamist movement Ansar al-Sharia, one of the hardline
militant groups to emerge after Ben Ali's fall.
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Ansar al-Sharia was blamed for inciting the storming of the U.S.
embassy in Tunis on September 14, 2012 and has since been listed by
Washington as a terrorist organization, with ties to al Qaeda in the
Kerry's visit to Tunisia is the first by a U.S. secretary of state
since that incident, which occurred three days after an attack on a
U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi in neighboring Libya killed the
U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Patrick Markey;
editing by John Stonestreet)
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