Tunisia president Kais Saied defends parliament sacking to US
Days ahead of parliamentary elections that the opposition says will consolidate Saied's power, the Tunisian leader traveled to Washington to take part in a US-Africa summit.
The United States "supports inclusive, transparent elections," Blinken told him at the start of a meeting, calling for respect for "diverse voices in Tunisia."
Saied told Blinken why he decided to fire the government and suspend parliament in June last year amid mounting public discontent.
"Tunisian people wherever I went were all asking to dissolve the parliament so I eventually decided to dissolve the parliament," he said.
"Why? Because the country was on the brink of civil war all over the country, so I had no other alternative but to save the Tunisian nation from undertaking any nasty action."
He said that Tunisians had taken to the streets to support him.
"They were so happy and so joyful as if they were getting rid of a real nightmare," he said.
But Saied has faced growing discontent after taking further steps, including pushing through a referendum on a new constitution that sharply curtails the parliament's powers.
His moves have raised fears among critics that Tunisia, the only democracy to emerge from the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, is headed back to autocracy.
Opposition parties are boycotting Saturday's parliamentary elections, accusing Saied of consolidating power.