EU supports Tunisians' "peaceful and democratic aspirations"
The European Union is ready to support a democratic transition in Tunisia following the popular ousting of authoritarian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, officials said Monday, DPA reported.
"The EU will stand side by side with Tunisians as they pursue their peaceful and democratic aspirations," the bloc's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and the commissioner responsible for EU neighbourhood policy, Stefan Fule, said in a statement.
They vowed that the EU was "ready to provide immediate assistance to prepare and organize" the elections promised by the country's interim leader, former parliament speaker Foued Mbazaa.
"If requested" the EU is also prepared to help Tunisia "with urgent needs," Ashton and Fule stressed.
EU ambassadors are expected to discuss on Tuesday a possible package of support measures.
Amidst reports that Ben Ali's family raided the central bank's coffers before fleeing the country, Ashton's spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said the imposition of sanctions against the disgraced leader and his entourage was "an option we have to discuss."
Prior to the unrest that first erupted last month, the EU had enjoyed strong relations with Ben Ali's regime and was holding talks with it about a formal upgrade of EU-Tunisia ties.
Diplomats on Monday said that another option being discussed is a suspension of those talks.