PM vows to resolve Tunisia crisis through dialogue

TUNIS, Aug 08, 2013 (AFP)

Prime Minister Ali Larayedh vowed Thursday his cabinet will make every effort to turn to dialogue with its detractors to resolve Tunisia’s political crisis sparked by an opposition leader’s assassination.

“Dialogue is the best way to overcome difficulties and resolve current problems,” he said in a message for the start of Eid al-Fitr, the holidays marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“The government will spare no effort to support the process of dialogue.”

It  was his first reaction to Tuesday’s suspension of the work of the elected National Constituent Assembly pending negotiations between the opposition and a governing coalition led by Larayedh’s moderate Islamic movement, Ennahda.

However, no accord in principle to hold such talks or a launch date have so far been announced.

Assembly speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar has proposed that the powerful UGTT trade unions organisation, which has called for a government of technocrats, mediate talks between the cabinet and opposition.

On Wednesday, Ennahda chief Rached Ghannouchi said his movement accepted Ben Jaafar’s decision to suspend the assembly’s work and called for talks on forming a national unity government.

The North African country has seen almost non-stop political turmoil since the February assassination of opposition politician and MP Chokri Belaid.

His killing was followed by the murder on July 25 of another opposition figure, Mohamed Brahmi.

Since its 2011 election, the assembly has failed to hammer out a consensus on a new constitution following a revolution that ousted long-time president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali the same year.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets of Tunis to demand the government’s resignation.

In addition to political instability, Tunisian security forces have lost 10 soldiers since July 29 and have intensified an operation against Islamist militants in the remote Mount Chaambi region along the Algerian border.

The killings of Brahmi and Belaid have been blamed on radical Islamists, and the cabinet has been accused of not doing enough to prevent such murders.

The opposition has rejected talks with the government until it steps down, while Ennahda has ruled out any dialogue conditional on its ouster.

Larayedh has insisted his elected government will not quit, offering instead to broaden the coalition.

Tuesday’s suspension of the assembly throws into question Larayedh’s target of it adopting a new constitution and electoral law by October 23 ahead of a proposed December 17 election.

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