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Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali stands in his office before a meeting with European Union's ambassadors in Tunis, on February 9/AFP


Tensions rise in Tunisia as PM threatens to quit

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“I will present the team no later than the middle of next week,” he told Tunisian media on Saturday.

“If it is accepted… I will continue to carry out my duties as head of the government. Otherwise, I will ask the president of the republic to find another candidate to form a new government.”

Saturday’s protest was called to “defend the legitimacy of the national constituent assembly,” in which the Ennahda-dominated coalition holds a majority, but whose support Jebali has said he doesn’t need to form a new cabinet.

His own parliamentary bloc had already rejected the plan, with Sahbi Atig, Ennahda’s leader in the national assembly, criticising Jebali for not consulting his party.

Saturday’s protest was on a far smaller scale than the massive turnout for Belaid’s funeral on Friday that turned into an anti-Islamist rally.

On Friday night, protesters torched Ennahda’s headquarters in Sidi Bouzid, birthplace of the uprising just over two years ago, as well as the office of an Islamist NGO in Souk Jedid, 17 kilometres (11 miles) away.

The left-wing leader’s funeral coincided with a widely-observed general strike called by the powerful 500,000-strong General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT).

The strike was believed to be the biggest since January 14, 2011 – the day Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, where he remains in exile.

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