Suspects held over Belaid killing: Tunisian interior minister

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The Tunisian authorities have arrested suspects in this month’s assassination of leading leftist opposition figure Chokri Belaid, the interior minister said.

“The investigation has progressed to the point that suspects have been arrested,” Ali Larayedh told reporters, without specifying the identities or number of people detained.

Meanwhile, Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda Party said Thursday that the former prime minister and secretary general of the party declined an offer to head a new coalition government.

Hamadi Jebali, prime minister for well over a year, resigned after Ennahda, his own political party, opposed his efforts to resolve the country’s political crisis by putting together a government of technocrats.

The party is now “engaged in internal consultations and discussions with its partners to propose a nominee to the president of the republic before the end of this week,” the party said in a statement.

The TAP news agency quoted Ennahda spokesman Nejib Gharbi as saying four other candidates from the party, all ministers in the old government, have been shortlisted by the party.

Tunisia was plunged into crisis following the assassination of Belaid, a leftist politician, on Feb. 6, which fueled anti-government demonstrations. Jebali offered to form a government of technocrats to run the country until new elections.

As the country that sparked the region-wide Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings after it overthrew its own dictator in January 2011, Tunisia’s transition is being closely watched in the area.

Speaking after his resignation, Jebali said he would only return to the job if he was allowed to put together a government open to all parties.

Hardline members of Ennahda have refused to deal with certain opposition parties, particularly the right-of-center Tunisia Calls, which includes many members of the former regime.

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