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In wake of opposition assassination, Tunisian PM vows caretaker government

Tunisian protesters shout slogans during a demonstration after the death of Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid (pictured on flag), outside the Interior ministry in Tunis February 6, 2013.


Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said Wednesday he would form a government of technocrats without political affiliations, after the murder of opposition leader Chokri Belaid sparked violent protests.

"I have decided to form a government of competent nationals without political affiliation, which will have a mandate limited to managing the affairs of the country until elections are held in the shortest possible time," Jebali said in a televised address to the nation.

He did not explicitly say that he was dissolving the existing government, nor did he name future ministers or set a date for the cabinet reshuffle, which must be confirmed by the national assembly.

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Jebali's announcement comes after a months-long impasse between his Islamist party Ennahda and its secular coalition partners over the distribution of ministries.

Jebali said that plans to form a government of technocrats had stalled before the "odious (killing) that has shocked our people."

"(Belaid's) assassination has quickened my decision, for which I assume full responsibility before God and before our people," he added.

The secular parties in government have been demanding that key ministries be assigned to independents, a move rejected by Ennahda hardliners, including party head Rached Ghannouchi.

Jebali is considered a moderate within his party and favourable to the justice and foreign affairs ministries being allocated to non-political figures.

Planned fresh polls are unable to take place before the adoption of a new constitution, whose drafting has also failed to make progress because of wrangling within the National Constituent Assembly elected in October 2011.

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