Hague urges 'fair Tunisia election'


Tunisian prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi arrives to announce a national unity government in Tunis (AP)

Foreign Secretary William Hague has urged riot-torn Tunisia to hold free and fair elections to establish a new government.

Mr Hague said Britain welcomed developments following a month of protests and rioting which led to president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fleeing to Saudi Arabia on Friday after 23 years in power and prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announcing a national unity government.

But as unrest threatened to spread to other Middle East nations, the Foreign Secretary cautioned against assumptions that other countries would follow the same path as Tunisia.

Mr Hague, asked on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme if he welcomed developments there, said: “I think on the whole, yes, they are certainly welcome. It’s not for us to judge the membership of the government of Tunisia, that’s for the people of Tunisia.

“I think the important thing is these elections go ahead in a free and fair way and the people of Tunisia are able to choose.

“We should welcome the extension of freedom and democracy in any country and that includes Tunisia.”

Mr Hague warned: “It’s important to avoid thinking that the circumstances of one country are automatically replicated in another, even neighbouring, country.”

But he said there was a “general lesson” that people expected economic and political development, including an independent judiciary, the rule of law and other basic freedoms.

“Britain will always be in favour of the steady extension of democracy and human rights,” he said.

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