Wed, Feb 20, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Tunisian PM fails to get consensus on new Cabinet

Reuters, TUNIS

Tunisia’s main political parties failed to agree on forming a non-partisan Cabinet to tackle turmoil triggered by the assassination of an opposition leader, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said on Monday.

However, he said efforts would continue to form a government supported by most parties in the North African state that spawned the slew of popular uprisings against dictatorship across the Arab world two years ago.

Tunisia was pitched into crisis last week after leading secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid was gunned down outside his home in Tunis, touching off mass protests targeting in part the ruling moderate Islamist party.

“The initiative for a Cabinet of technocrats did not receive full political consensus and has failed ... but work is continuing with all parties to form a government which has the agreement of most of the political parties,” Jebali told a news conference.

He spoke after a meeting with leaders of secular political parties and his own Islamist an-Nahda party, which has denied any involvement in Belaid’s killing.

Jebali suggested a Cabinet of apolitical technocrats to help restore calm and guide Tunisia to elections.

He had threatened to quit if his proposal failed, but on Monday he said only: “I will meet the president tomorrow to discuss the next steps.”

The political crisis has disrupted efforts to revitalize an economy that was hard-hit by the disorder that followed the overthrow of former Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

An-Nahda party chief Rached Ghannouchi said it was essential that Islamists and secular parties shared power now and in the future.

“Any stable rule in Tunisia needs a moderate Islamist-secular coalition,” he said.

Ghannouchi said an-Nahda might compromise over control of portfolios such as defense, foreign affairs, justice and interior.

“We are ready to discuss all ministries, including sovereign ones, in a new coalition government,” he said.

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