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Politics

Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda party rejects PM's plan for technocrat government

Tunisia's ruling Islamist party has rejected a plan by the prime minister to form a government of technocrats amid unrest sparked by the killing of an opposition leader. Some protests have turned violent.

The parliamentary leader of Tunisia's ruling Islamist Ennahda party on Thursday rejected the planned formation of a new government made up of technocrats announced earlier by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.

"We have rejected this proposal... The head of the government took the decision without consulting the [ruling] coalition or the Ennahda movement," Sahbi Atig said on national television.

Another senior figure in the party said the idea of installing a government of technocrats was unacceptable.

"We in Ennahda believe Tunisia needs a political government now," the party's vice president, Abdelhamid Jelassi said. We will continue discussions with other parties about forming a coalition government."

Prime Minister Jebali proposed the creation of a cabinet made up of technocrats in response to the killing on Wednesday of Chokri Belaid, the head of an opposition coalition of secular parties called the Popular Front. Under his plan, the new government would be given a caretaker role, to see the country through to the next elections, which would be held as soon as possible.

No one has claimed responsibility for killing Belaid, who was shot several times as he was getting into his car on Wednesday.

His killing sparked protests across the country and on Thursday, demonstrators clashed with police in the capital, Tunis, and in the southern city of Gafsa. Demonstrators massed in the streets and threw rocks at police who responded with tear gas.

Union strike, French schools close

Tunisia's main trade union has called a general strike for Friday, to coincide with the funeral of Belaid.

"The General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) decided to call a general strike on Friday during an extraordinary meeting (Thursday) of its leaders," the group said on its website.

Meanwhile, the embassy of France, the former colonial power in Tunisia, announced it would close its schools in Tunis on Friday and Saturday over fears of escalating violence.

hc/pfd (Reuters, AFP, AP)