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Secretary Of State Kerry Finds Inspiration In Tunisia Ahead Of Syria Talks


Secretary of State John Kerry is in Vienna, where he's trying to find a diplomatic way out of the war in Syria. On his way there, he seemed to get some inspiration from a stop in Tunisia. That's where the Arab uprisings began in 2011, and it's the only country that's still on a path toward democracy. Here's NPR's Michele Keleman.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary Kerry says Tunisia is a great model. It is, in his words, where the Arab Spring was born and continues to bloom, despite terrorist attacks and turmoil.


JOHN KERRY: Tunisians have not for a moment abandoned the values upon which their revolution was based. Instead, the people of Tunisia have shown extraordinary determination, courage, grit and unity.

KELEMEN: His visit comes amid political squabbling, though. And Tunisia's Foreign Minister Taieb Baccouche reassured Kerry that his country will overcome that, too. He spoke through an interpreter.


TAIEB BACCOUCHE: (Through interpreter) It is quite normal to have problems inside parties, in between parties, but everyone supports the action of the government and the reform - the reforms which are being carried out currently.

KELEMEN: Tunisia is seeking a third $500 million U.S. loan guarantee to support borrowing to back up those reforms. Kerry says he's moving ahead on this. The U.S. is also pitching in $12 million to help build a police training center. And the secretary says U.S. military officials are talking about the possibility of using drones to collect intelligence. Kerry says the U.S. is taking its cues from the government, which is worried about the many Tunisians who have gone to fight in Libya and Syria returning home further radicalized.


KERRY: We're not asking Tunisia to do things they don't want to do. We want to do the things that Tunisia describes to us will help the most.

KELEMEN: Kerry is now in Vienna, turning his attention to the more vexing conflict in Syria. He's trying to get nearly 20 countries on the same page about the need for a diplomatic solution. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Vienna. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.