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Tunisia PM urges patience amid crisis

Following a wave of increasingly volatile protests over the country's flagging economy, Tunisia's leader has asked for more time. Prime Minister Essid has promised democracy will prevail no matter what.

Prime Minister Habib Essid begged for "patience" from the Tunisian people on Saturday after a string of sometimes violent protests against the rampant unemployment plaguing the country. Emerging from a crisis cabinet meeting, Essid promised his administration was taking the issue very seriously, but warned that changes could not be implemented overnight.

Tunisia "is in danger despite the positive things which we have accomplished, particularly the transition toward democracy", said Essid, pleading with the public to "understand that there are difficulties."

"Solutions exist but some patience and optimism are needed," he added. He declined to mention any concrete plans to tackle joblessness.

Worst crisis since the revolution

A week of intense protesting touched off in the city of Kasserine on January 16 when a young unemployed man, Ridha Yahyaoui, despairing of his situation climbed a utility pole near the governor's office and electrocuted himself.

Across the country, 15 percent of citizens are out of work, the rate is even higher among university graduates at 32 percent.

After clashes broke out between police and protestors, which resulted in the death of one policeman in the town of Feriana on Wednesday, the government imposed a nationwide curfew. On Saturday, Essid said the curfew would remain in place for security reasons until further notice.

Originally the poster child for success stories arising out of the 2011 "Arab Spring," Tunisia - which was able to swiftly remove dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and transition to democracy - has struggled economically in the aftermath. High-profile terrorist attacks against tourists, whose visits to the country's Mediterranean resorts account for a good deal of the Tunisian economy, have worsened financial woes.

es/jlw (AFP, Reuters)

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