BEIRUT

Middle East

US diplomats walk out of Tunisia ceremony after Iran jibe

A handout photo provided on February 7, 2014, by the Tunisian presidency press service shows Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki (L) meeting with French president Francois Hollande upon his arrival in Tunis. (AFP PHOTO/ PRESIDENCY PRESS SERVICE)

TUNIS: US diplomats on Friday walked out of the ceremony to celebrate Tunisia's new constitution after Iran's representative made "false accusations" about Washington undermining the Arab Spring uprisings, the embassy said.

In his address to the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), Iran's parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani accused arch foes the United States and Israel of seeking to thwart the pro-democracy uprisings that swept the region in 2011.

"What was intended to be a ceremony honouring Tunisia's achievements was used by the Iranian representative as a platform to denounce the United States," the embassy said in a statement.

"The US representatives present at the NCA departed the ceremony due to the false accusations and inappropriate comments made by the Iranian representative present regarding the United States."

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Maghreb Affairs and Egypt, William Roebuck, was Washington's top representative at the ceremony, which was also attended by African and Arab leaders, as well as French President Francois Hollande.

The walkout came after Larijani charged, according to an Arab translation of his speech, that Israel and the United States had "tried to render these (Arab) revolutions sterile, and to make them deviate from their course so that Israel can benefit."

Selim Ben Abdesslem, a Tunisian lawmaker, said it was impossible to censure the speeches made at the ceremony.

"The Americans didn't like what the Iranian said. He could be put in his place... but everyone is free to hold their views."

The NCA overwhelmingly adopted Tunisia's new constitution on January 26, in what was seen as a milestone in getting Tunisia's troubled transition back on track, three years after the ouster of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the first Arab Spring uprising.

 

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