The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 18, 2004

President Bush Meets with President of Tunisia
Statement by the Press Secretary

President Bush met today with President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia. They reviewed issues of regional concern, including Iraq, Middle East peace, cooperation in the global war on terrorism, and positive developments in Libya.

They also exchanged views on President Bush's vision for the Greater Middle East, and prospects for greater economic and political opportunities for all Tunisians. The President welcomed the establishment of a Middle East Partnership Initiative office in Tunis. Tunisia has made great strides in ensuring equal participation by women in all sectors of society, and social and economic progress in Tunisia could give it a leading role in regional reform if this progress is now followed by needed political reform.

The President emphasized to President Ben Ali his desire for Tunisia to move ahead in areas such as press freedom, the rights of Tunisians to organize and work peacefully for reform, the need for free and competitive elections, and equal justice under law. The United States is committed to working with Tunisia and all the countries of the Greater Middle East to achieve progress in these areas.

Progress in these areas is very much in Tunisia's interest, and in the interest of even stronger relations with the United States in the years ahead.

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