Success in Tunisian Unity Government Talks

Contributor: Laurent Rathborn
Posted: 01/17/2011
Laurent Rathborn
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After a tense 48-hour period over the weekend which saw Tunisia go through three successive heads of state, an agreement has been reached to form an interim government of national unity. In such a case, the current Tunisian constitution stipulates that new elections must take place within 60 days.
The newly formed caretaker government is headed by Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, who remains in post at the request of interim leader Foued Mebazaa, former Speaker of Parliament. Ministerial posts have been given to opposition leaders Ahmed Ibrahim and Mustafa Ben Jaafar amongst others.
Meanwhile, the evacuation of British tourists from the country continues. Foreign Secretary William Hague has stressed that "It is critical that there is rapid return to law and order in Tunisia and I urge restraint from all sides. I condemn wholeheartedly the violence and looting which has been seen in the last 48 hours. I welcome the efforts of the Tunisian authorities to hold elections as soon as possible and hope these elections are free and fair."

The situation in Tunis is still tense, despite Mr Ghannouchi having declared that he is committed to freeing all political prisoners currently held in the prison system. The Ministry of Information is also to be abolished.
Update at 1500 GMT / 18 January 2011:
  • the new government says that 78 people have died in the violence so far
  • reports state that several ministers from opposition parties have now resigned