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Tunisia crisis deepens

TUNIS – Tunisia’s political crisis is deepening after the assassination of a leading opposition leader earlier this week.

The killing of anti-Islamist politician Chokri Belaid sparked violent protests. The prime minister then announced a new, technocratic government.

But the governing Islamist party Ennahda rejected the move, saying Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali “did not ask the opinion of his party”.

Ennahda denies opposition claims that it was behind yesterday’s killing.

In a separate development, lawyers and judges across Tunisia have launched a two-day strike in response to the killing, according to the AFP news agency.

Earlier, four opposition groups – including Belaid’s Popular Front – announced that they were pulling out of the country’s national constituent assembly in protest.

Belaid’s killing has brought to a new pitch a long-simmering political crisis in Tunisia, with secularists and liberals accusing the Islamists of amassing too much power, the BBC’s Sebastian Usher says.

“We in Ennahda believe Tunisia needs a political government now,” party Vice-President Abdelhamid Jelassi said today.

“We will continue discussions with others parties about forming a coalition government,” he added.

Ennahda spokesman Abdelhamid Aljallasi later added that party members had not been informed of the prime minister’s decision before he announced it.

Jebali yesterday said he would dismiss the current cabinet and form a government of “competent nationals without political affiliation”.

The new ministers would have a mandate “limited to managing the affairs of the country until elections are held in the shortest possible time”, the prime minister said in a nationally televised address. (BBC)

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