Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali is stepping down after failing to form a new government to quell the country's political crisis. He announced his resignation after a meeting with President Moncef Marzouki.
"I promised and assured that, in the event that my initiative failed, I would resign as head of the government, and that is what I have done," Jebali said in a news conference Tuesday.
The prime minister's initiative to form a government of nonpartisan technocrats was rejected Monday by his own leading moderate Islamist Ennahda party. He had proposed the initiative to ease the turmoil caused by the assassination of secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid on February 6.
Jebali, who spent 15 months as prime minister, had earlier threatened to quit if his plans for the technocratic government failed.
"The failure of my initiative does not mean the failure of Tunisia or the failure of the revolution," Jebali added, referring to the ousting two years ago of the autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, which sparked a wave of uprisings across the region.
No one has claimed responsibility for Belaid's killing, which caused riots across the country. His death heightened the frustration among secularists who believe Jebali's government has not dealt firmly enough with religious extremists in Tunisia.
The unrest has also disrupted efforts to revitalize Tunisia's economy, which has struggled in the wake of Ben Ali's overthrow.
OnTuesday, Standard & Poor's lowered its long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit rating for Tunisia, citing "a risk that the political situation could deteriorate further amid a worsening fiscal, external and economic outlook."
dr/slk (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)