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Arab World

Tunisia's Islamist-led government agrees to step down

The Islamist-led coalition government in Tunisia has agreed to resign. The political compromise is part of an effort to end months of turmoil in the North African nation.

Tunisia's incumbent Islamist party, Ennahda, agreed on Saturday to cede power to an independent transitional government in a bid to end a political crisis triggered by the assassination of a secular opposition figure last July.

Negotiations between Ennahda and the secular opposition are expected to begin in the coming days. The talks, aimed at appointing the caretaker government, are slated to last three weeks. Dates for parliamentary and presidential elections are also expected to be set.

Saturday's agreement to move forward with a political transition was the result of mediation by the UGTT labor union between Ennahda and the opposition.

"The dialogue will start on Monday or Tuesday," said Lotfi Zitoun, an Ennahda party official. "Ennahda has accepted the plan without conditions to get the country out of the political crisis."

Political assassinations

Tunisia's current crisis erupted when the secular opposition figure Mohammed Brahimi was gunned down outside of his home on July 25. Dozens of opposition lawmakers subsequently quit parliament, brining negotiations on a new constitution to a standstill.

Some members of the opposition even accused Ennahda of complicity in Brahimi's murder. Ennahda has strongly condemned the assassination and denied any involvement, saying that radical Salafists were responsible. The government has launched a crackdown on radical Islamist groups.

The shooting of Brahimi came just months after the leftist politician Chokri Belaid was gunned down outside of his home.

Tunisia has been in a state of turmoil since longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown by a popular uprising in 2011. Ennahda came to power after the revolution in free elections.

slk/mkg (AP, Reuters)