Tunisia OKs law to fight widespread corruption

Tunisian prime minister Youssef Chahed. (AFP)
Updated 19 July 2018
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Tunisia OKs law to fight widespread corruption

  • Tunisia’s anti-corruption committee says graft is still widespread and threatens Tunisia with billions of dollars a year in losses
  • The penalties for illicit enrichment include fines and five years’ imprisonment

TUNIS: The Tunisian Parliament on Tuesday approved a law to combat illicit enrichment, a step designed to strengthen the government’s fight against widespread corruption in the country.
Since the 2011 uprising, Tunisia has been held up by Western partners as a model of democracy for the region. Economic progress has lagged, however, and corruption remains a major problem in the North African state.
The law will force the president, ministers, senior officials in the public sector, independent bodies, banks, judges, security forces, journalists and unions to declare their property.
“The law is a revolution because it will allow the national group to scrutinize the unknown wealth that has been acquired illegally,” Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said.
The parliamentary speaker, Mohamed Naceur, said the law “is another step in efforts to fight corruption, ensure transparency and preserve public money.”
The penalties for illicit enrichment include fines and five years’ imprisonment.
Last year, the government confiscated the property and froze bank accounts of about 20 prominent businessmen arrested on suspicion of corruption in an unprecedented government campaign against graft.
Chafik Jaraya, who maintains political contacts in Tunisia and Libya and helped finance the Nidaa Tounes ruling party during the last elections in 2014, was among those arrested last year.
He is in jail awaiting trial. His lawyer has said the charges are politically motivated.
Tunisia’s anti-corruption committee says graft is still widespread and threatens Tunisia with billions of dollars a year in losses.
It added that corruption had spread in all sectors including security, public tenders and health.


US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

Updated 18 December 2018
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US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

  • James Jeffrey said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war
  • Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay

WASHINGTON: The US said Monday it was no longer seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad but renewed warnings it would not fund reconstruction unless the regime is “fundamentally different.”

James Jeffrey, the US special representative in Syria, said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war, estimating that some 100,000 armed opposition fighters remained in Syria.

“We want to see a regime that is fundamentally different. It’s not regime change —  we’re not trying to get rid of Assad,” Jeffrey said at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Estimating that Syria would need $300-400 billion to rebuild, Jeffrey warned that Western powers and international financial institutions would not commit funds without a change of course.

“There is a strong readiness on the part of Western nations not to ante up money for that disaster unless we have some kind of idea that the government is ready to compromise and thus not create yet another horror in the years ahead,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama had called for Assad to go, although he doubted the wisdom of a robust US intervention in the complex Syrian war. and kept a narrow military goal of defeating the Daesh extremist group.

President Donald Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in October that the US would not provide “one single dollar” for Syria’s reconstruction if Iran stays.

Jeffrey also called for the ouster of Iranian forces, whose presence is strongly opposed by neighboring Israel, although he said the US accepted that Tehran would maintain some diplomatic role in the country.

Jeffrey also said that the US wanted a Syria that does not wage chemical weapons attacks or torture its own citizens.

He acknowledged, however, that the US may not find an ally anytime soon in Syria, saying: “It doesn’t have to be a regime that we Americans would embrace as, say, qualifying to join the European Union if the European Union would take Middle Eastern countries.”