Tunis/Paris: Fresh protests erupted in Tunisia Monday,
where hundreds of demonstrators marched to demand that the regime
of ex-president Zine el-Abidine ben Ali be excluded from a
national unity government to be announced later in the day.
In Tunis, a few hundred people demonstrated on the central Habib
Bourguiba avenue, scene of a mass rally last Friday that preceded
Ben Ali's flight from power.
Monday's demonstrators were calling for Ben Ali's ruling
Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party to be excluded from
the interim government and a new constitution to be written.
Army troops fired into the air and used water cannon to disperse
the demonstrators, while riot police fired tear gas at the
Similar anti-RCD protests were held in the central towns of Sidid
Bouzid, where the uprising began in mid-December, and Regueb,
French public radio reported.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi was preparing to
unveil a new unity government that will run the country until the
next elections, which must be held within 60 days of Ben Ali
France's France Info public radio reported that several opposition
figures were poised to become ministers.
Meanwhile, the race for the next presidency got underway with a
prominent human rights activist and opposition leader announcing
Moncef Marzouki, the former head of the country's human rights
league and current leader of the Congress for the Republic party,
said he was preparing to begin campaigning for the job.
Under Ben Ali, the party of the 65-year-old professor of medicine,
like several other parties, had been banned.
The March polls are set to be the first free elections to take
place in the North African country for decades.
The European Union Monday vowed to provide "immediate assistance"
in helping organize the elections.
Ben Ali, Tunisia's autocratic leader of 23 years, was forced to
flee abroad Friday after weeks of violent protests, in which at
least 66 people were killed, mostly unarmed demonstrators shot
dead by police.
France's Le Monde daily reported Monday that his wife, Leila, had
collected 1.5 tonnes of gold from the central bank before leaving.
Leila Ben Ali visited the bank in Tunis and is thought to have
taken gold bars worth some 60 million dollars along when departing
on a plane bound for Dubai, according to the report.
The president's wife is a member of the powerful Trabelsi clan,
which controls much of Tunisia's wealth and became a symbol of the
kleptocracy that riddled the country of 10 million.
The looting, arson and anarchy that erupted after Ben Ali left
began to subside Monday.
The army blames Ben Ali's presidential guard for trying to stoke
unrest. On Sunday, sporadic street firefights between the army and
alleged presidential guard members took place in Tunis.
Meanwhile, most of the thousands of French and German tourists who
had been holidaying in Tunisia's beach resorts when the uprising
intensified last week had been evacuated by Monday.
Germany's foreign ministry said 6,000 German holiday-makers had
been repatriated and that the several hundred Germans who remained
were either residents of people who had opted to remain.
France's association of tour operators said all remaining French
holiday-makers in Tunisia should be back in France by Monday
One Swedish tour operator, Apollo Resor, announced Monday it had
cancelled its trips to Tunisia until May, due to the unrest.