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Anti-govt protests intensify in Tunisia

CNN-IBN
Jan 25, 2011 at 09:32am IST

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New Delhi: Thousands of protesters defied curfew and marched to Tunisian capital on Monday, amidst speculation that the unity government will soon be replaced with a new body.

The protesters camped outside the government's main office complex demanding that the PM and the old guard that served under former dictator Ben Ali step down.

The country plunged into a political crisis after the president was overthrown on January 14 following month-long protests over poverty, corruption, unemployment and inflation.

Anti-govt protests intensify in Tunisia

Tunisia plunged into political crisis after the president was overthrown on Jan 14.

For two days, protesters who marched to the Tunisian capital from all around the country have taken up residence in a square outside the Cabinet complex, and were prepared to spend their second night there.

Late on Monday sources said that Tunisian politicians are negotiating the creation of a council to replace or oversee the interim government, after a week of street protests demanding that the cabinet resign.

The sources said the council would be tasked with protecting the revolution that toppled veteran president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali this month, amid widespread complaints that former members of the ruling party are trying to cling on to power.

The protesters from rural Tunisia have added to the pressure on the unity government that had already come to a head after most civil service groups and even policemen joined in.

As darkness fell in Tunis the protests continued unabated, the demonstrators set up camp, laying out on mattresses and making food, promising to stay until the government falls.

One protester who had marched hundreds of kilometres from the town of Gafsa, said that a complete break from the past was needed.

We're staying tonight and every night, until the government falls. This regime should step aside. This regime is corrupt, this regime, is on its way out. They have to go. When we get a national salvation government, a good government, a clean, pure government, and one that the people have confidence it, then we'll go" Naim said.

Earlier on Monday, a Tunisian army general who refused to support Ben Ali's crackdown on protesters spoke to the protesters, and warned that a political vacuum could bring back dictatorship.

Another demonstrator, who had marched from the resort town of Hammamet said that they should not heed the words of the military.

"We heard about what the general said - we reject this. We don't to get rid of one police state just to get another one. What's the difference? They just left yesterday. And today they return? We don't want to go from police to police. We want a civilian and a patriotic government that includes all people and all parties. Independent to build a new government," Rida said.

The Tunisians' revolt has electrified millions across the Arab world who suffer similarly from unemployment, rising prices and corrupt rule, often by leaders backed by Western powers.

(With inputs from agencies)

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