Tunisia

President forced out of office amid growing unrest

Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi

Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali quit his post Friday night and fled the country, amid growing protests in the streets of the capital. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi announced that he will take over as interim leader.

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Ben Ali, who has been in office for 23 years, reportedly fled to Malta, amid mounting demands for him to step down.

This was despite an announcement on Thursday that he would not seek re-election after 2014.

Earlier Friday he sacked the government, called early elections in six months and declared a state of national emergency.

Tunisia's main opposition parties, both legal and banned, also called for him to quit in favour of an interim government.

"We demand that Ben Ali go and a provisional government be set up charged with organising free elections in six months," the parties said in a joint declaration read out at a news conference in Paris.

Ghannouchi has called on Tunisians to unite, saying he would respect the constitution.

"I call on Tunisians of all political persuasions and from all regions to demonstrate patriotism and unity," he said solemnly on state television.

Ben Ali said he had ordered police not to fire live rounds at demonstrators, after weeks of clashes in which at least 66 people are said to have been killed.

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