Unrest continues in Tunisia

2011-01-18 08:41

More protests were expected today in Tunisia as an interim government, including members of opposition groups and civil society as well as members of the old government, was to take up its work.

Demonstrators demanding that all ministers of the old regime of ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali must resign were met with teargas and gunshots overnight.

Most of the protests were aimed at the powerful party apparatus of Ben Ali’s RCD (Constitutional Democratic Rally).

The new government, introduced yesterday by Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, included opposition politicians for the first time since independence from France in 1956.

Its main task will be to organise parliamentary and presidential elections.

Ghannouchi plans to call elections in six months, instead of the two months mandated by the constitution when the presidency is vacated.

The expanded time frame would accommodate demands by opposition groups who were seeking more time to get organised.

Six members of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s government were reappointed to their posts, including Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane, Defence Minister Ridha Grira and Interior Minister Ahmed Friaa.

Neither Ghannouchi or the reappointed ministers were seen as particularly close to Ben Ali, the autocratic leader of 23 years, who fled to Saudi Arabia Friday after a month-long uprising that cost 78 lives and left 94 injured.

The 60 people killed in a prison fire on the coastal town of Monastir and the victims of marauding police officers were not included in the totals.

The dead included Lucas Mebrouk (32), a photographer with the European Pressphoto Agency, the French Foreign Ministry said last night.

He had been hit on the head by a tear gas grenade on Friday during clashes in Tunis.

Germans living in Tunisia reported food shortages.

“The large supermarkets have been looted. Long lines are standing at the smaller stores that are still open,” said Elke Peiler, project manager for the German-Tunisian Industry and Trade Organisation.

The wait for bread was three hours. Milk was being sold directly from the delivery truck.

“I’m glad that I still have some provisions at home,” said the 43-year-old, who lives with her 5-year-old daughter in a suburb, in a telephone interview.

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