Tunisian government and opposition to start talks Saturday

An anti-government protester throws an egg at a poster of Tunisian politicians, including the leader of the Islamist Ennahda movement Rached Ghannouchi (centre row, R) during a demonstration in Tunis, October 2, 2013. (Reuters)

Tunisia's ruling Islamists and their secular opponents will start three weeks of negotiations on Saturday to allow the government to step down and make way for a caretaker cabinet until elections, a labour union mediating the talks said.

The moderate Islamist Ennahda party agreed at the weekend to a deal under which its government would resign after the talks as a way to end months of political deadlock in the country where the Arab Spring uprisings began.

Tunisia's powerful UGTT union, which brokered talks between the sides, said in a statement on Thursday that the negotiations would begin on Saturday, to make way for a non-partisan administration and set a date for parliamentary and presidential elections.
The crisis erupted in July after the killing of an opposition leader by suspected Islamist militants. The turmoil has weakened the North African country's economic outlook and raised concerns among its international lenders.

Opposition parties took to the streets to demand the Islamist-led government step down after the killing.

Since autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in 2011, Tunisia has seen widening divisions over the political role of Islam in one of the Muslim world's most secular nations.

Last Update: 21:07 KSA 00:07 - GMT 21:07