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Middle East
Tunisian foreign minister resigns
Kamel Morjane quits post as country's powerful labour union votes to endorse the struggling interim cabinet.
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2011 18:33 GMT
It remains unclear whether the protesters in Tunis would accept a new ministerial line-up [Reuters]

The Tunisian foreign minister, Kamel Morjan, has resigned from the interim government, after days of protests demanding that the interim cabinet be purged of members of the former ruling party.

Protesters, who earlier on Thursday stormed police barricades in Tunis, the Tunisian capital, have been insisting that the government dismiss loyalists of the ousted leader, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14 when weeks of violent protests against poverty, repression and corruption toppled him after 23 years in power.

Since then, the interim government, which includes many officials of RCD, the former ruling party, has struggled to impose order.

Morjane quit the RCD last week but that gesture did not prove enough to appease protesters.

There was no immediate word on the fate of the interior and defence ministers, who political sources had said were also expected to be replaced.

Two ministers from Ben Ali's old government - the industry and international co-operation ministers - will remain in the new lineup, but neither of these was a member of his ruling RCD party, sources told the Reuters news agency.

Tunisia's powerful labour union will not join the new government itself but will approve the new lineup, a union source told Reuters, a factor that could help appease protesters demanding that the government be purged of members of the RCD.
   
The union has a large membership and has been involved in organising some demonstrations.

And in what is being seen as an attempt to ease the tension on the street, the union decided to cancel a big protest rally scheduled for Friday.

The developments came as thousands of demonstrators continued to throng main Tunis boulevard, Bourguiba Avenue, demanding that the transitional government resign.

Earlier on Thursday, protesters broke through police lines outside Ghannouchi's office, where hundreds of demonstrators have pledged to camp out until the government resigns.

It remained unclear whether the protesters would accept a new ministerial line-up.

"If the new cabinet line-up remains dominated by figures close to the ousted regime, further demonstrations - either spontaneous or fomented by the labour union - are likely," Mohammed El Katiri, a Eurasia group analyst, said.

Tunisia's uprising has electrified Arabs across the Middle East and North Africa, where many countries share the complaints of poor living standards and authoritarian rule.

Inspired by Tunisia's example, thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets to demand an end to Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, clashing with police who fired tear gas and used water cannon.

In addition to the cabinet reshuffle, Tunisia is aiming to set up a council of "wise men" to guide the country to democracy from the authoritarian state run by Ben Ali.

Source:
Agencies
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