Three days of mourning have begun in Tunisia to remember the victims of the popular uprising that toppled former President Ben Ali. The mourning period is for the 78 people killed during protests.
The UN puts the number of people killed in protests at 100
Tunisia started observing three days of national mourning on Friday for the dozens of people killed during violent protests, state television said. The uprising, which some have been calling the "Jasmine Revolution," ended the 23 year rule of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Cabinet ministers held the first meeting of the new cross-party government on Thursday night, marking fresh hope for a country which has been plagued by political unrest since mid-December.
A government spokesman said security was a top priority, as well as preparing for new presidential elections and speeding up political reforms.
"This meeting was historic. We were completely in agreement," said Higher Education Minister Ahmed Ibrahim, an opposition party leader who joined the coalition government after the ousting of Ben Ali.
Amnesty for political prisoners
The ministers decided to grant recognition to all banned political groups and adopt an amnesty for all political prisoners.
Government Ministers met for the first time on Thursday
The amnesty will include people jailed for membership in the banned Islamic movement Ennahda.
The new government promised to bring back any resources that had been spirited out of the country and to remove security forces stationed at universities, spokesman Tayyib Al Bakouchi said.
The interim government was unveiled on Monday, after Ben Ali fled the country to Saudi Arabia in the face of a popular revolt.
Calls for party ban
Protests continued in the capital Tunis on Thursday. Police fired shots into the air to try to disperse hundreds of demonstrators demanding that ministers associated with the rule of Ben Ali leave the newly appointed government.
Many Tunisians have been demanding that the RCD party be banned all together.
Violent protests in January ousted former President Ben Ali
Meanwhile, 33 members of Ben Ali's family were arrested by Tunisian authorities on charges that related to accumulating part of the state's wealth.
Images from state television showed jewelry, watches, and credit cards that had been confiscated from the family members, whose identities and relation to Ben Ali remain unknown.
Earlier this week, Switzerland froze the assets of Ben Ali and his family.
Author: Matt Zuvela, Catherine Bolsover, Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson