Tunisian Islamists accept union plan to resolve crisis

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Tunisia’s governing Islamists moved closer to negotiations with secular opponents on Thursday by agreeing in principle to a plan for a transition toward new elections proposed by the powerful trade unions.

Rached Ghannouchi, chairman of the Islamist Ennahda party, said the negotiations would quickly resolve the standoff that has paralyzed Tunisian politics for almost a month and led to mass protests and calls for the government to resign.

The UGTT trade union federation, which is mediating between Ennahda and its critics, has proposed the government step down and let a neutral interim cabinet prepare new elections. Ennahda rejected this in the past but changed course this week.

“We will get out of this crisis very soon,” Ghannouchi told journalists after meeting UGTT Secretary General Hussein Abassi. “We accept the UGTT initiative in principle to begin the dialogue (with the opposition).”

“We think the dialogue will begin very soon,” he said, without giving other details of his party’s position.

Ennahda, which governs in coalition with two smaller secular parties, is under increasing pressure from the opposition over accusations that is imposing an Islamist agenda, failing to deal with violent Salafi radicals and mismanaging the economy.

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