samedi 15 janvier 2011

Tunisia: President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali forced out

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Police fire tear gas at protesters outside the interior ministry

Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has stepped down after 23 years in power as protests over economic issues snowballed into rallies against him.
Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has taken over as interim president, and a state of emergency has been declared.
Unconfirmed reports say Mr Ben Ali and his family have left Tunisia, and that he is looking for a place of asylum.
French media say President Nicolas Sarkozy has rejected a request for his plane to land in France.

Wyre Davies BBC News, Tunis
The protesters have put their bodies on the line, and many people have been killed. Tonight, they ignored the curfew to celebrate on the streets.
At the end of a dramatic day, President Ben Ali fled, no longer able to hold back the growing tide of public discontent and anger with his regime.

Now the protesters will want to see the fruits of their demonstrations.
They won't settle for meagre reform, they won't settle for the same elite remaining in power. They're very happy that the president has gone, but they don't like the regime that surrounded him, and they'll want his cronies out as well.
Dozens of people have died in recent weeks as unrest has swept the country and security forces have cracked down on demonstrations over unemployment, food price rises and corruption.

The protests started after an unemployed graduate set himself on fire when police tried to prevent him from selling vegetables without a permit. He died a few weeks later.

The protests came to a head on Friday as thousands of people gathered outside the interior ministry, a symbol of the regime, and many climbed onto its roof. Police responded with volleys of tear-gas grenades.
President Ben Ali, who had already promised to step down in 2014, dissolved his government and the country's parliament, and declared a state of emergency.

Then, in a televised address on Friday afternoon, the prime minister announced that he would be taking over from President Ben Ali.
Mr Ghannouchi, 69, a former finance minister who has been prime minister since 1999, promised to "respect the law and to carry out the political, economic and social reforms that have been announced".

Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi: "I assume responsibilities of the president"
Witnesses say soldiers have begun taking down portraits of Mr Ben Ali - an ubiquitous sign of his authoritarian rule - from billboards and on the walls of public buildings around the country.

A BBC Arab affairs analyst, Magdi Abdelhadi, says Mr Ben Ali's demise may rattle the entire post-colonial order in North Africa and the wider Arab world.

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