Unity government possible in Tunisia: FM

AFP, Friday 14 Jan 2011

The Tunisian foreign minister says that a unity government is possible as the government attempts to bring calm back to the country following weeks of deadly riots

A passer by walks past a photo of Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis, Tunisia, Thursday 13 January 2011. (AP)

A national unity government would be feasible and "totally normal" for Tunisia, its foreign minister Kamel Morjane said Friday, as the country looked to move on from weeks of deadly social unrest.

Speaking on French radio station Europe 1, Morjane made a significant nod towards Mohammed Nejib Chebbi, leader of the opposition Progressive Democratic Party, which is legal but not represented in parliament.

"Given the conduct of people like Mr Nejib Chebbi, I think it is feasible, even totally normal" to have a power-sharing deal, Morjane said. He gave no further details of who he thought might take part.

After a month of deadly riots that started as a protest at unemployment, Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Thursday promised to step down at the end of his current term in 2014.

"The president is a man of his word," Morjane said.

Ben Ali's televised address on Thursday evening was well received by rival political groups in Tunisia, where Ben Ali has held power for 23 years and the organised opposition is weak.

Ben Ali pledged to liberalise the political system and ordered security forces not to fire on crowds of protestors. Rights groups say at least 66 people have been killed in the recent clashes.

The unrest had reached the capital Tunis, but on Friday the security forces that had been deployed in force in the city centre appeared to have withdrawn and shops and cafes reopened, an AFP reporter there said.

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