Tunisia PM refuses to resign after protests

Thu Nov 29, 2012 2:32pm EST
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By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's Islamist prime minister rejected calls for his resignation on Thursday after two days of violent protests against economic hardship, and he accused opposition parties of sowing disorder.

At least 200 people were injured when demonstrators demanding jobs clashed with police on Tuesday and Wednesday in Siliana, a city on the edge of the Sahara whose inhabitants have long complained of neglect.

Protesters and a prominent leftist politician called upon Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to step down after the violence. A leading trade union had called for the protests.

"In democratic systems, we don't force down governments. I'm not going to resign or dissolve the government. It's parliament that has authority to do that," Jebali told a news conference.

"We know who is behind these events - the opposition parties," he said.

The state news agency said police had used tear gas to try to break up further demonstrations on Thursday.

The protests are the fiercest since hardline Salafi Islamists attacked the U.S. embassy in Tunis in September over an anti-Islam film made in California. That violence left four people dead.

The government led by the Islamist Ennahda party to which Jebali belongs has sought to revive the economy after a fall in trade with the crisis-hit euro zone.   Continued...

Tunisia's Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali arrives for an interview at the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit in Tunis November 20, 2012. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi