Tunisia's prime minister Mohammed Ghannouchi pledged Friday to quit politics after elections that he says will be held as soon as possible. In an interview on Tunisian television on Friday he said he will leave power after a transition phase leading to legislative and presidential elections "in the shortest possible timeframe."'
Ghannouchi also said that during the transition period all antidemocratic laws would be abolished, as well as the press regulations and the existing election laws. In an emotional statement during which Ghannouchi sometimes was on the brink of bursting out in tears he said that under the regime of Ben Ali 'he had been frightened like all Tunisians'.
Tunisians began three days of mourning Friday, lowering flags to half mast and broadcasting recitations of the Quran to mourn the 78 people who, according to official figures of the ministry of the Interior, died in the weeks of protests. Earlier in the day, about 1,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Interior Ministry and lateron moved to the courtyard of Ghannouchi's offices. The crowd chanted 'You have stolen the richess of this country, but you are not going to steal the revolution. The government has to go!' Fonctionaries of the ministry threw portraits of Ben Ali from the windows and police officers were joining ranks with protesters, mixing with their ranks outside the prime minister's office. Other demonstations were held in Gafsa, Sfax and Tataouine at the cots in the south, Tunisian tv reported.
. The labour union UGTT held a meeting on Friday during which it decided to demand that the government is dissolved and replaced by a government of 'national salvation'. According to Abid Briki, assistent secretary general of the UGTT that would meet the demands of the streets.
Interior Minister Ahmed Friaa in the meantime told that Imed Trabelsi, a nephew of the former president who was reported dead after having been stabbed, is still alive. Trabelsi, who made a fortune in the world of real estate, is in custody and being questioned, said Friaa.
The new central bank president Mustapha Kamel Nabli repeated denials that Tunisian government's stock of gold was taken during the final days of Ben Ali's reign."There has been no change in our stock of gold and its weight has been the same for years," Mustapha Kamel Nabli said at a news conference.Nabli said Tunisia holds 5.3 tons of gold in its own vaults and another 1.397 tons placed with the Bank of England. Nabli replaced Taoufik Baccar, who resigned as central bank head this week following rumors that the ex-president's wife fled with large amounts of gold.
Taoufik Ben Brik (photo), a well known journalist and opponent of the former regime, who at the end of 2009 was imprisoned for six months in what appeared to be a highly politically motivated process, declared his intention to be a presidential candidate in the next elections. Ben Briki (50) is the second to do so after Moncef Marzouki.
Some 1800 political prisoners have been freed. in tte past days. Others are still waiting. Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the islamist An Nahda party who lives in exile in London and wanted to return, has to wait till an amnesty law has been adopted offcially, government circles said. 'After all he got a life sentence for plotting against the state,' one source said.