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Africa

New interim prime minister named in Tunisia

Tunisia has a new prime minister after the ruling Islamist party and its opponents agreed an interim appointment ahead of elections in 2014. The new premier is former Industry Minister Mehdi Jomaa.

Jomaa is to lead the country as part of an agreement that will see the eventual resignation of the coalition government led by moderate Islamist party Ennahda. He was installed after first-choice Mustapha Filali, 92, ruled himself out on Friday due to age.

"Dialogue and discussions led to a vote and the choice of Mehdi Jomaa, 50, as the candidate for the post of head of government," Houcine Abassi, secretary general of the UGTT trade union, said on Saturday.

"Our people have waited for a long time, but despite the difficulties and obstacles ... this dialogue has not failed," he said.

Jomaa, formerly Tunisia's industry minister, is to head a new government of independents intended to govern the north African nation until elections are held, reportedly early next year. Ennahda took power in elections in October 2011, with the nation in the aftermath of an uprising that led to the ouster of long-serving President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Five months after taking power, Ennahda announced it would not support making Sharia law the main basis of the new constitution. The move infuriated Islamist hardliners.

The assassination of two prominent opposition politicians, the last being the shooting of Mohammed Brahmi in July by suspected Jihadists, prompted protests calling for the resignation of the coalition government and created a political deadlock.

Ennahda agreed to open a national dialogue in October. The naming of an independent, interim prime minister was due by early November but had been repeatedly delayed.

ph/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)