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Tunisian economy extends recover in second quarter

Tunisia's economy extended its gradual recovery from last year's political turmoil in the second quarter of 2012 led by a strong rebound in tourism, but remains beneath the government's growth target for the year.

"The growth rate during the second quarter of 2012 amounted to 2.1 percent compared to the same period last year...growth during the first half of the year is 3.3 percent," the country's statistics institute said in a statement on Tuesday.

Tourism revenues the first source of foreign currency grew in the first half of 2012 by 35 percent compared to the same period last year to $723 mln.

The economy shrank 1.8 percent in 2011 when the popular revolution which ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali closed factories and deterred tourists and investors.

It now faces problems as a result of the crisis in the euro zone, the main market for its exports and the source of most of its tourists.

Tunisia's finance ministry has set 3.5 percent as its growth target for 2012, rowing back on early hopes that the economy would bounce back with more than 4.5 percent growth.

The International Monetary Fund said at the start of August that Tunisia's medium-term growth prospects are favourable but maintaining economic stability is essential as the country tries to emerge from last year's political upheaval.

A moderate Islamist party won elections held soon after the revolution and now leads a coalition government. The party's leaders have sought to reassure investors and tourists but successive protests and strikes organized by left-wing secular opponents have undermined efforts to boost the economy.