Tunisia's new premier promises inclusive government

Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:25am EST
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By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's prime minister-designate Ali Larayedh, a hardliner from the main Islamist Ennahda party, said on Friday he hoped to form a "government of all Tunisians", but opposition leaders swiftly signaled discontent.

Tunisia plunged into political crisis on February 6 when the assassination of secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid on February 6 ignited the biggest street protests since the overthrow of strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali two years ago.

President Moncef Marzouki asked Larayedh to draw up a government within two weeks after he was formally nominated for prime minister by Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi.

"We will start consultations to form a new government ... a government of all Tunisians," Larayedh said in brief remarks after meeting the secular president.

He urged political parties, trade unions, businessmen and journalists to support his government to achieve the objectives of the North African country's revolution and build democracy.

Ennahda's choice for prime minister raised hackles among opposition parties, some of whom accuse Larayedh's Interior Ministry of failing to curb Islamist violence, although he is credited for acting firmly against al Qaeda-linked militants.

"The decision deepens the crisis because Larayedh headed the ministry responsible for the killing of Belaid and violence that has spread throughout the country," said Zied Lakhdar, a leader in the Popular Front, in which Belaid was secretary-general.

The Interior Ministry and Ennahda have denied they had any hand in Belaid's killing, which they have condemned.   Continued...

Ennahda movement leader Rachid Ghannouchi (L) speaks with Tunisian Interior Minister Ali Larayedh during the 2nd national congress of the Congress for the Republic (CPR) party in Tunis August 24, 2012. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi