Tunisia ruling Islamists to give up key ministries

AFP , Wednesday 27 Feb 2013

Leader of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, announces that independents will head the four sovereign ministries in Tunisia

Tunisia's Prime Minister-designate Ali Larayedh speaks during a news conference in Tunis February 26, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Tunisia's ruling Islamists said Wednesday they have agreed to give up key ministries to independents, a key concession that could speed up the formation of a new government and end a political crisis.

"We confirm the 'neutralistion' of the four sovereign ministries," Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the ruling Ennahda party, said on Radio Kalima, referring to the interior, justice, foreign and defence portfolios.

Ennahda controls the ministries of the interior, justice and foreign affairs.

The defence portfolio is already in the hands of an independent, Abdelkarim Zbidi, who has held the function since the revolution that brought down the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

Ennahda was responding to a demand by almost all of the opposition and the government's two secular, centre-left partners, Ettakatol and the Congress for the Republic of President Moncef Marzouki.

Its leader Ghannouchi has said the new cabinet would be made up of "five or six parties," and suggested the Wafa movement, the Freedom and Dignity bloc and the Democratic Alliance as potential partners.

Interior Minister Ali Larayedh was charged last week with forming a new government following the resignation of prime minister Hamadi Jebali, after his plan for a non-partisan government failed.

Jebali announced the plan on February 6, the day that leftist opposition Chokri Belaid was gunned down outside his home in an assassination that exacerbated a long-running political crisis.

Larayedh, also an Ennahda member, has until March 8 to form a new government, which he has vowed will be "for all Tunisians".

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