Tunisian premier Ghannouchi resigns
Source: BI-ME with DPA , Author: Posted by BI-ME staff
Posted: Mon February 28, 2011 2:23 am

TUNISIA. Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, the head of the North African country's transitional government, announced his resignation on Sunday amid renewed violent protests.

According to official figures, at least three people have been killed and 200 injured in demonstrations against the interim government since Friday.

'I am not one who makes decisions that can lead to victims,' Ghannouchi said during a press conference in the capital Tunis. 'I am not an oppressor and will never be.'

The 69-year-old blamed the weekend's violence on a 'conspiracy against the revolution of the Tunisian people' and called on the silent majority of the population to put an end to it.

Ghannouchi had headed the transitional government since the ouster of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January following a month- long popular uprising. The interim government was supposed to prepare the country for fresh elections within six months.

Ghannouchi had held several influential posts under Ben Ali. The powerful UGTT trade union had repeatedly indicated that it did not support the premier, but would tolerate him.

Meannwhile, Tunisia's interim president has named former government minister Beji Caid-Essebsi as the country's new prime minister and called for calm to return after violent new protests

Clashes between police and demonstrators then flared up in Tunis over the weekend, as people took to the streets in protest against the interim government, which many Tunisians considered to be compromised. Much of the resentment was targeted at Ghannouchi.

Authorities said the protests began peacefully, but were then overtaken by young hooligans.

On Sunday, numerous youths smashed windows, set up barricades and bombarded police with stones, while security forces reacted with tear gas and warning shots, witnesses said.

The Interior Ministry said that more than 200 people have been arrested on charges of arson and causing severe damage. It said several police officers were injured.

The tense situation in the country is currently being exacerbated by an exodus from neighbouring Libya. The Red Cross in Tunisia has already warned of a humanitarian catastrophe, saying that at least 40,000 people have fled to the country from Libya since February 20.

The United Nations' refugee agency on Sunday said it believes that 50,000 refugees have already arrived in Tunisia.

Libyan guards at the most important border crossing, Ras Jedir, were said to have left their posts. On Saturday alone, 10,000 people - mostly Egyptians - reportedly crossed into Tunisia there.

 

MIDDLE EAST BUSINESS COMMENT & ANALYSIS

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