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New government unveiled in Tunisia

Tunisia's new national unity government has been unveiled in an attempt to halt the wave of violent protests that led to the overthrow of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, a long-time ally of Ben Ali, and several top ministers retained their posts in the shake-up.

Mr Ghannouchi also announced that political prisoners would be freed, among an array of measures aimed at loosening up a system that for decades was effectively under the single rule of Ben Ali's RCD party.

A key question was whether the changes would be enough to stabilise the country that has been reeling under continued unrest after Ben Ali fled on Friday - 23 years after he first took power.

Mr Ghannouchi, who has been premier since 1999 and has kept his post throughout the upheaval, said the current ministers of defence, interior and foreign affairs would stay. Three opposition figures, including Nejib Chebbi, a founder of the opposition PDP party, will join the government.

Until new presidential elections are held, the country is being run by interim president Fouad Mebazaa, former speaker of the lower house of parliament, also a veteran of Tunisia's ruling party.

Mr Ghannouchi said all non-governmental associations that seek it would be automatically recognised, and all the restrictions on the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights would be lifted.

Many opponents of Ben Ali's rule have taken to the streets to demand the new government not include of any remnants of his iron-fisted regime.

The government said more than 78 protesters and other civilians have died in the protests, which have swept the country for a month.

Interior Minister Ahmed Friaa said 94 civilians have been injured. Members of the security forces have also been killed, but he did not say how many.


From Belfast Telegraph