Tunisia's president calls for new cabinet

Anger continues to spill on the streets of the north African state as President Moncef Marzouki calls for new cabinet.

    Tunisia's President Moncef Marzouki has asked the nation's Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to appoint a new cabinet as protests over economic hardship continue to sweep the streets of the north African state.

    In a televised national address on Friday, President Moncef Marzouki said that the country's coalition government had not "met the expectations of the people" and asked that a new one, smaller and specialised to deal with the unrest, be formed.

    The current government has about 80 members.

    The Tunisian president's ability to bring change is minimal. The prime minister is the determining force in the power structure. Marzouki, from the centre-left Congress for the Republic, has clashed with Ennahdha's Jebali, in the past.

    He said new elections should be held "as soon as possible," before next summer. Calling the violence "unacceptable," Marzouki said there should be a commission of enquiry.

    "The government must be changed to have a competent technocrat cabinet and not one based on political factions," Marzouki said.

    "If the clashes continue and the government's response is not adequate, there will be chaos and a dead-end," he added.

    "Tunisia today has an opportunity that it must not miss to be a model because the world is watching us and we mustn't disappoint," Marzouki said.

    There was no immediate comment from the prime minister's office.

    Protests spread

    Friday also saw the fourth day of protests, leaving more than 300 people injured including at least 17 blinded by birdshot, according to medical sources.

    Angry protesters vented their frustration at security forces, calling for their government to fulfil the promises of the country's revolution.

    Forces responded by firing tear gas canisters to disperse crowds.

    On Saturday, the situation remained tense, although the army had moved in to replace the police. Crowds gathered outside the union headquarters as negotations began between some members of the government and the union.

    The prime minister and interior minister boycotted the negotiations.

    Clashes had spread to a second a town, Bargou, 17km eat of Siliana.

    The president expressed concern that the unrest in Siliana could spread to other regions in Tunisia's long marginalised interior, where the lack of development and high unemployment helped trigger begin what became a nationwide uprising that toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Al, the former autocrat, in January 2011.

    UN human rights officials have criticised the security forces for using excessive force which echo the clashes of harsh policing under Ben Ali.

    - With additional reporting from Youssef Gaigi

    SOURCE: Agencies


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