Africa

Tunisia: Two ministers quit interim government

Tunisia's Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi speaks at the National Assembly in Tunis on 7 February 2011
Image caption Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi resigned on Sunday

Two ministers have resigned from Tunisia's interim government, a day after Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannounchi said he was standing down.

Mohamed Afif Chelbi and Mohamed Nouri Jouini were both in the cabinet of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted last month.

The departure of Mr Ghannouchi had failed to appease protesters, who rallied in Tunis again.

They demanded that the cabinet be free from Mr Ben Ali's allies.

Mr Chelbi, who had served as industry and technology minister, and Mr Jouini, who had overseen planning and international co-operation, presented their resignations on Monday.

They were the only ministers remaining from Mr Ben Ali's rule.

Meanwhile, the Tunis stock exchange said it was suspending all operations "in view of the current situation and with the aim of protecting savings invested in equities."

And in a separate development, military reinforcements were deployed close to the interior ministry in Tunis after violence over the weekend.

Reforms pledge

On Friday and Saturday, anti-government protesters held huge rallies calling for Mr Ghannouchi's resignation and a new constitution.

At least three people were killed in clashes between hundreds of demonstrators and security forces in Tunis on Saturday.

On Sunday, Mr Ghannouchi, who had served under Mr Ben Ali since 1989, defended his record in government and announced he was resigning, in an address aired on state TV.

He was replaced by 84-year-old Beji Caid Sebsi, a former foreign minister under Tunisia's first post-independence president, Habib Bourguiba.

Tunisia's government insists it is introducing reforms as fast as it can, and that is is planning to hold elections by July.

But those promises do not seem to satisfy the protesters, correspondents say.

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