Obama offers condolences to Tunisian leader

The White House said Obama spoke to the Tunisian president, offering “condolences and support”

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U.S. President Barack Obama offered condolences to Tunisian leader Beji Caid Essebsi Monday, after a jihadist attack that killed 38 people and left the future of the vital tourism sector in doubt.

The White House said Obama spoke to the Tunisian president, offering “condolences and support,” including an offer to help investigate the devastating June 26 beach resort attack.

“The President commended the Tunisian people for their commitment to standing strong and united to reject terrorism,” a statement said.

Obama welcomed Essebsi to the White House last month, offering tighter security ties to ensure jihadists do not extinguish the brightest democratic light to emerge from the Arab Spring.

Essebsi in December became the first democratically elected leader in Tunisia's 60-year history.

“The President re-affirmed our readiness to assist with the investigation and pledged to continue strengthening our cooperation on counterterrorism and broader security issues with the Tunisian government,” the White House said.

Tunisia became the flashpoint of popular revolts across the Middle East in 2011 when a desperately disaffected fruit vendor set himself alight, arousing pent-up anger at failing government and economic hardship.

Since then the North African country has held elections, but also faces rising security threats, including chaos in neighboring Libya and a March attack on the Bardo National Museum that killed 21 tourists.

“We need the United States, and maybe the United States needs Tunisia now,” Essebsi said during his visit to Washington.

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