Tunisian party says it does not recognize any deal with international lenders

TUNIS, June 19 (Reuters) – One of Tunisia’s main political parties, the Free Constitutional Party, said on Sunday it would not recognize any deal Tunis struck with international lenders in return for unpopular reforms, the latest threat to a possible agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

IMF Middle East director Jihad Azour will travel to Tunisia on Monday and meet with President Kais Saied, saying formal negotiations could begin soon on a bailout.

Tunisia, which is facing a financial crisis, is seeking a deal on a $4 billion IMF loan in exchange for an unpopular package of reforms to shore up its struggling public finances.

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The government’s reform program included a wage freeze and cuts in food and fuel subsidies.

The Free Constitutional Party, which according to polls would easily win over its rivals in legislative elections, joined the UGTT in rejecting the economic reforms demanded by the IMF.

The powerful UGTT union, which has a million members, went on strike on Thursday and paralyzed much of Tunisia in the face of government economic reform plans, increasing pressure on President Kais Saied.

“We will not recognize any financial commitments or loans between the government and international donor institutions,” the party said in a statement.

The party is led by Abir Moussi, a supporter of autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted by mass protests during the 2011 revolution.

After a decade of revolution that brought democracy, Moussi’s party has become a major player in Tunisia as popular frustration grows with economic stagnation.

On Saturday, thousands of party supporters demonstrated against President Saied.

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Reporting by Tarek Amara; edited by David Evans

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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