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Tunisia's interim government reshuffled

Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced the make-up of a new interim government in an effort to quell the protests against his cabinet which included allies of the ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

world Updated: Jan 28, 2011 08:17 IST

Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced the make-up of a new interim government in an effort to quell the protests against his cabinet which included allies of the ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Prime Minister Ghannouchi announced the reshuffle on Tunisian television Thursday, Xinhua reported.

The caretaker government was formed after Ben Ali fled the country Jan 14 amid a mass uprising against unemployment, rising prices and corruption.

Protest continued across the country as most of the key positions in the interim government, including that of prime minister and the ministers of defence, interior and foreign affairs, were retained by the members of Ben Ali's RCD party.

On Thursday, clashes erupted between demonstrators taking part in the sit-in in front of the prime minister's office and police. Several protests were also reported in major Tunisian cities.

The reshuffle came a day after the interim government issued arrest warrant against Ben Ali, his wife Leila Trabelsi and five other family members, who have been accused of illegally amassing property and other assets abroad.

In a statement released minutes before the announcement of the reshuffle, the country's powerful labour union UGTT said that it will back the new government led by Prime Minister Ghannouchi. However the union refused to be part of the government.

"Twelve ministers have been replaced while nine remain in post," said Ghannouchi, who urged Tunisians to return to work and to resume normal life.

"The situation is serious," said Ghannouchi, adding that the previous period will no doubt have adverse effects on the country' s economy. Only two ministers who were part of Ben Ali's government remain.

All senior cabinet positions, including the interior, defence, and foreign ministries have changed hands, and have been attributed to independent figures. The regions from where the revolution emerged are also represented in the new government.

The ministry of interior was attributed to an independent state attorney, Farhat Rajhi, and the ministry of foreign affairs went to retired diplomat Ahmed Ounaies.

Earlier Thursday, Kamel Morjane resigned as foreign minister, the official press agency TAP reported.

In a statement to the news agency, Morjane said his decision was dictated by the country's "higher interest". He said that regardless of his future situation, he will "spare no effort to contribute to the future of the country".