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Renewed protest as Tunisia announces interim government

Despite an announcement that an interim government is in place, Tunisians have returned to the streets to protest the ruling party of departed President Ben Ali.

People run from a burning supermarket

Tunisia has been in an uproar for days

Tunisia's reappointed Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi on Monday unveiled an interim power-sharing government, in which several members of former president Zine el-Abidine ben Ali's regime retained their posts but the opposition also took control of key dossiers.

Six members of the exiled Ben Ali's government were reappointed to their ministries, including Ghannouchi and Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane. Three opposition leaders - Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, Ahmed Brahim and Mustapha Ben Jaafar - were brought into the government.

Meanwhile, turmoil and violence continued as security forces used teargas against about a thousand protesters calling for the rest of the ruling party to follow President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in resigning.

Since Ben Ali stepped down from his post on Friday, in the face of widespread public criticism, stability in Tunisia has been precarious as the country awaits a new government.

Interim President Fouad Mebazaa

The interim president wants a swiftly assembled transitional government

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi promised to reveal a national unity government on Monday to run the country until fresh elections can be held in two months.


"We will announce the new government which will open a new page in the history of Tunisia," Ghannouchi said in a brief televised statement on Sunday.

A statement from the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called for a democratic transition in Tunisia.

"The European Union stands ready to provide immediate assistance to prepare and organize the elections process if requested," said Ashton's spokeswoman, Maja Kicijancic, on Monday.

The EU also said it "deplored and condemned the violent repression of demonstrations" and called on Tunisians to act responsibly to "preserve peace."

Zero tolerance

The talks to form the temporary government were apparently progressing relatively smoothly, though it was unclear how temporary power would be split between the country's various political parties.

"The main thing for us right now is to stop all this disorder," the head of the opposition Ettajdid party, Ahmed Ibrahim, said. "We are in agreement on several principles concerning the new government. We will continue to discuss."

In response to the unrest in the capital, which has not abated since Ben Ali fled the country on Friday, the prime minister warned protesters to expect swift retaliation.

"There will be zero tolerance with those people, whoever they are, who threaten the security of the country," Ghannouchi said in a telephone interview also broadcast on state television.

Ongoing unrest


On Sunday, Tunisian security forces fought a string of gun battles both in the capital, Tunis, and near the presidential palace to the north of the city on Sunday.

A crowd gathers in front of a bakery in Tunis

Long waits for food have kept Tunisians frustrated

Tunisian media reported that the army and police had launched an attack on presidential guards loyal to Ben Ali around the presidential palace in Carthage, a suburb on the Mediterranean shore, roughly 15 kilometers north of Tunis.

Locals said that the skirmish began on Sunday afternoon, but continued into the evening with sporadic but heavy gunfire.

State television also reported two separate gun battles in Tunis, one near the central bank building, and another near the opposition party's headquarters. Tanks were still stationed around the capital, and soldiers remained at their posts, guarding public buildings.

German nationals reportedly detained

A police source in Tunis said that a group of foreign nationals, four of them carrying German passports, were among those detained in the capital on Sunday. They were apparently carrying weapons and traveling by taxi.

According to the police officer, the taxi driver said that the group was going on a hunting trip.

Earlier on Sunday, the former president's head of security, General Ali Seriati, was arrested and accused of orchestrating the violent state response against protestors prior to Ben Ali fleeing to Saudi Arabia.

Western and Arab powers continued to call for calm and unity in the troubled North African country on Sunday. Hundreds of European tourists stranded in the popular holiday destination have been flown home on emergency flights.

Author: Mark Hallam, Matt Zuvela (AFP, AP, Reuters, KNA)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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