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7 Days To Reach A Deal, Tunisia's Biggest Union Warns Islamist-Led Government

By Countercurrents.org

2 August, 2013

Tunisia's powerful trade union said on August 2, 2013 that the embattled Islamist-led government had one week to reach a deal for creating a new technocrat government, otherwise it will be "forced to consider" other options. Despite efforts to reach a deal, both sides appeared to harden their stance on August 1, 2013 as they have called for rival "million-man" marches over the weekend.

Media reports from Tunisia said:

The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) with 600,000 members has been trying to mediate between the ruling Islamist party Ennahda and the secular opposition. The opposition is demanding the government's ouster and the dissolution of a transitional Constituent Assembly. The CA is still weeks away from completing the long due draft constitution.

"(We) will continue to hold talks, then we will have other options that we will be forced to consider," said the UGTT's deputy leader, Bou Ali Mbarki.

However, the head of the Ennahda refused on August 1 to remove the prime minister Ali Larayedh from his post, hardening its stance toward the opposition's demand that the government be dissolved. Ennahda chief Rachid Ghannouchi told a local radio station: "We are holding firm to Mr. Ali Larayedh as the head of the government."

Although this week, leaders from Ennahda said they were willing to consider creating a new unity or salvation government to help ease the political crisis.

Opposition figures remain equally recalcitrant about relinquishing their demand to dissolve the Assembly.

Political tensions have also sparked violence since the opposition began mobilizing large protests in several towns.

In the south of the capital, pro- and anti-government protesters threw rocks at each other and broke into fist fights, wounding three people.

Crisis is increasing in the country since the assassination last week of a leftist politician, the second to be slain in six months. More than 70 lawmakers from the CA have withdrawn from their work in the body in protest against the assassination. They have set up a sit-in outside the Assembly that has drawn large nightly demonstrations joined by thousands of protesters.

Political tensions, along with an outburst of clashes between the army and militants near the Algerian border, risk disrupting the democratic political transition that began after Tunisians toppled an autocratic president in 2011.

The UGTT, one of the most powerful political and economic forces in Tunisia and seen as being closer to the opposition, has offered a compromise that would put a new technocrat government in place but preserve the Assembly. The transitional body would, however, be put on a sped-up time scale for completing the constitution and the country's new election laws.

Meanwhile, Tunisian troops clashed with Islamist militants near the Algerian border on August 1, the second round of fighting this week.

On the Algerian side of the border, Algeria has reinforced its troops.

Two days ago, militants ambushed and killed eight soldiers near the Algerian border, and two improvised bombs have been set off in Tunis , the first time the capital has seen such attacks, although no one was hurt.





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