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Tunisia: US urges return to 'democratic path'

A top US official spoke to Tunisia's President Kais Saied days after his shock power grab. But the plea has not stopped Saied jailing opposition lawmakers.

Tunisian military forces guard the area around the parliament building in the capital Tunis

The political upheaval in Tunisia has sparked alarm from regional and Western allies

Tunisia should swiftly return to its "democratic path," a top White House official said on Saturday.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser to US President Joe Biden, made the comments to Tunisian President Kais Saied who seized governing powers last Sunday.

What did the US say?

In an hour-long telephone call, Sullivan noted support for "Tunisian democracy based on fundamental rights, strong institutions and a commitment to the rule of law," according to a White House statement.

The US statement said the call "focused on the critical need for Tunisian leaders to outline a swift return to Tunisia's democratic path."

"This will require rapidly forming a new government, led by a capable prime minister to stabilize Tunisia's economy and confront the COVID-19 pandemic," it added.

The EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the return of democracy in the country during the week.

Watch video 02:34

Tunisia's president sacks PM and suspends parliament

What is happening in Tunisia?

Tunisian President Kais Saied invoked a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic and poor governance on July 25 to dismiss the prime minister Hichem Mechichi.

Saied used his powers to freeze parliament for 30 days and seize executive control.

After seizing governing powers, Saied ordered a graft crackdown targeting 460 businessmen. He additionally called for an investigation into alleged illegal funding of political parties.

Tunisian authorities jailed an opposition lawmaker on Friday and briefly detained four members of the powerful Islamist party Ennahdha, according to Tunisian media reports.

Tunisian President Kais Saied speaks at a security meeting

On July 25, Tunisia's President Kais Saied suspended parliament and took control of the country's executive branch

Ennahdha has been a major player in Tunisian legislative elections, following the country's 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings across the region.

Ennahdha supporters clashed with backers of the president outside parliament, but the crowd was eventually dispersed by police.

Also Friday, outspoken legislator Yassine Ayari was arrested outside his home, according to a Facebook post by his party, the Hope and Action Movement.

His lawyer Mokhtar Jemai said Ayari was apparently arrested in connection with a June 30 court conviction but was not informed of the reason for conviction.

kmm/rs (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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