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Interim Tunisian government sworn in amid protests

Wednesday January 19, 2011 06:49:01 AM, DPA

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Tunis: Tunisia's new transitional power-sharing government was sworn in Tuesday, with the exception of four ministers, including one from the opposition, who resigned on the first day or were absent.

Three ministers from the General Union of Tunisian Labour (UGTT) stepped down in protest over the reappointment of several ministers from ousted president Zine el-Abidine ben Ali's Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party.

A fourth minister, Mustapha ben Jaafar, leader of the Union of Freedom and Labour party (FDTL), one of three opposition leaders named to the government, was also absent for the swearing-in.

Sources within his party told DPA that Ben Jaafar had refused to join the government, also in protest over its weighting in favour of the RCD, which is widely seen as corrupt.

The prime minister, minister for foreign affairs, finance, interior defence are all RCD members, who kept their jobs in the new administration.

The resignations came as thousands of people continued to demonstrate for more reforms.

In capital Tunis and in the southern cities of Sfax, Tataouine and Medenine, Tunisians took to the streets to protest the RCD's ongoing grip on power.

Riot police fired tear gas and baton-charged demonstrators in Tunis, in scenes reminiscent of the protests that toppled Ben Ali, albeit far less violent.

Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi defended the reappointment of the RCD ministers, saying they had "clean hands and plenty of competence".

They kept their portfolios "because we need them in this phase (of building a democracy)", Ghannouchi, who also kept his job, told France's Europe 1 radio.

Tunisia's Islamist movement Ennahda denounced what it called a "government of national exclusion".

The government is charged with restoring stability after a month of demonstrations in which 78 people died, and organizing parliamentary and presidential elections within six months.







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