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Jan
14

UPDATE: PRESIDENT OF TUNISIA FORCED OUT AS PROTESTS MOUNT

LE  MONDE REPORTS ON A TROUBLED DAY  IN TUNIS1

Tunisia: the day that brought down Ben Ali

LEMONDE.FR with AFP and Reuters | 14.01.11 | 11:36 • Updated 14.01.11 | 10:00 p.m.

BBC:Tunisia: President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali forced out

Tunisia’s president has stepped down amid growing unrest on the streets of the capital and other towns and cities.

Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi said he would be taking over from President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

A state of emergency has been declared amid protests over corruption, unemployment and rising prices.

Troops have surrounded the country’s main international airport, Tunis Carthage, and the country’s air space has been closed.

Mr Ben Ali had earlier dismissed his government and dissolved parliament, saying new elections would be held within six months.

The state of emergency decree bans more than three people from gathering together in the open, and imposes a night-time curfew. Security forces have been authorised to open fire on people not obeying their orders.

Earlier, police fired tear gas as thousands of people gathered outside the interior ministry in the capital Tunis, urging the president to step down immediately.

The president expressed regret over the deaths of civilians in the protests
Doctors say that 13 people were killed in overnight clashes in the capital, and there are unconfirmed reports that five people have been killed in protests on Friday outside the capital.

Human rights groups say more than 60 people have died in recent weeks as unrest swept the country and security forces cracked down on the protests.

The protests started after an unemployed graduate set himself on fire when police tried to prevent him from selling vegetables without a permit. He died a few weeks later.

UK tour operator Thomas Cook is pulling out all 1,800 of its customers currently on holiday in Tunisia.

Thomas Cook and another holiday company, Thomson First Choice, are cancelling departures to Tunisia scheduled for Sunday 16 January. However, Thomson are not bringing home visitors already in Tunisia early.

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TUNISIA TIMELINE
17 Dec: Graduate Mohammed Bouazizi sets himself on fire in protest at lack of job opportunities
24 Dec: Protester Mohamed Ammari shot dead in central Tunisia
28 Dec: Protests spread to Tunis
2 Jan: Hackers from Anonymous launch attack on Tunisian government websites
5 Jan: Mohammed Bouazizi dies
7 Jan: Bloggers and activists arrested
8-10 Jan: Dozens of deaths reported in crackdown on protests
11 Jan: Schools and universities closed
12 Jan: Interior minister sacked
13 Jan: President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali promises to step down in 2014

Tourism is key to Tunisia’s economy and an important source of jobs.

The UK, the US and France are among the countries advising against non-essential travel to Tunisia.

“The situation is unpredictable and there is the potential for violence to flare up, raising the risk of getting caught up in demonstrations,” the UK Foreign Office said in its latest travel advisory.

On Thursday night, Mr Ben Ali, who had governed Tunisia since 1987, announced he would stand down in 2014.

In his speech, he said there was “no presidency for life” in Tunisia. He said he did not intend to amend the constitution to remove the upper age limit for presidential candidates, which would have allowed him to stand for a further term in 2014.

The president, who earlier this week had blamed the unrest on “terrorists”, also said he felt “very, very deep and massive regret” over the deaths of civilians in the protests.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Arab leaders they would face growing unrest unless they enacted real economic and political reform.

Mrs Clinton was speaking in Doha at the end of a four-nation visit to the Gulf.

Mr Ben Ali, 74, was only Tunisia’s second president since independence from France in 1956. He was last re-elected in 2009 with 89.62% of the vote.

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