Tunisia’s Islamist rulers begin crisis talks with opposition

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Tunisia’s ruling Islamist Ennahda began national dialogue with opposition parties on Friday to form a caretaker government and prepare for elections, Al Arabiya television reported.

The opposition National Salvation Front agreed to participate in the talks after Islamist Prime Minister Ali Larayedh sent Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) his written commitment to resign after the talks.

The talks are expected to bring an end to months of political unrest in the country, amid increasing militancy by the Islamist militants.

The mainly secular opposition said on Thursday evening that it would not take part until Islamist Prime Minister Larayedh gives a “clear and explicit” undertaking that his government will step down within three weeks of the dialogue’s launch.

The timeframe is part of a hard-won roadmap to put Tunisia’s political transition back on track negotiated by the mediators between the Islamist-led government and the opposition, AFP reported.

But the roadmap also sets a parallel one-month timeframe for the adoption of a new constitution and electoral laws, and a timetable for fresh elections, which the government is insisting must also be adhered to.

Larayedh gave a new commitment on television late Thursday to the principle of handing over to a government of independents, but again insisted his cabinet’s resignation was conditional on the implementation of other parts of the roadmap.

“The government is eager and committed to stand down within the timeframes set by the roadmap but on condition that all its elements are completed in the specified order,” the premier said, according to AFP.

The protracted haggling between the two sides has paralyzed Tunisian politics since the killing of an opposition member of parliament in July, in an attack blamed on jihadists.

It comes against a backdrop of mounting public anger over the growing death toll from jihadist violence, which saw two offices of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party torched on Thursday as six slain police officers were laid to rest.

(With AFP)

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