WASHINGTON (AP) -- The International Monetary Fund has approved a $1.74 billion loan for Tunisia to ease the country's economic strains more than two years after the revolution that toppled the former regime.

The IMF says the 2-year loan will support an economic reform program in the country and help promote growth.

The decision announced Friday allows for an immediate payout of $150 million.

The IMF says Tunisia had embarked on a moderate economic recovery but is grappling with a fragile banking sector, pressing social demands, widespread regional disparities, high unemployment, and widening deficits.

Moody's (NYSE:MCO) Investors Service last month downgraded the country's credit rating, citing political uncertainty and the risk of instability as well as weak finances at government-owned banks.

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