Tunisia plans unity government, uneasy peace holds

Reuters, TUNIS

Mon, Jan 17, 2011 - Page 1

Tunisian politicians were holding talks yesterday to try to form a unity government to help maintain a fragile calm two days after former Tunisian president Zine al--Abidine Ben Ali was ousted by violent protests.

Tanks were stationed around Tunis and soldiers were guarding public buildings, but after a day of drive-by shootings and jailbreaks in which dozens of inmates were killed, residents said they were starting to feel more secure.

“Last night we surrounded our neighborhood with roadblocks and had teams checking cars. Now we are in the process of lifting the roadblocks and getting life back to normal,” said Imed, a man in the city’s Intilaka suburb.

Yesterday was not a working day in Tunisia and the streets were quiet, but some people were moving about, shopping for food.

Commercial activity

For the first time in several days, a handful of commercial vehicles — vans and pick-up trucks — could be seen moving about with deliveries.

The only occasional sounds of gunfire overnight were a marked change from the heavy shooting the previous night.

Interim Tunisian President Fouad Mebazza, the former -parliamentary speaker, has asked Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi to form a government of national unity and constitutional authorities said a presidential election should be held within 60 days.

Ghannouchi was due to hold more talks yesterday to try to fill the vacuum left when Ben Ali, president for more than 23 years, fled to Saudi Arabia following a month of protests over poverty and repression that claimed scores of lives.

Taiwanese students

Meanwhile, three Taiwanese students trapped in Tunisia are -expected to leave today for Taiwan and Europe, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of African Affairs Director-General Samuel Chen (陳士良) told reporters yesterday.

Ministry spokesman James Chang (章計平) said the students were safe, adding that the nation’s representative office in France had closely monitored the situation and been in touch with the students.

Taiwan does not have a representative office in Tunisia.

The three students, two of whom are exchange students from National Chengchi University, were stranded in school dormitories amid the unrest.