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Sporadic Fighting Continues as Tunisia Tries to Form a New Cabinet

  • Lisa Bryant

Women applause as they look at a torn banner depicting former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the center of Tunis, Sunday, Jan. 16. 2011.

Women applause as they look at a torn banner depicting former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the center of Tunis, Sunday, Jan. 16. 2011.

Gun battles broke out around Tunisia's capital late Sunday as politicians worked at cobbling together an interim coalition government.

The day in the capital ended pretty much the way as the previous one - with sounds of gunfire and helicopters circling overhead. Media reported gun battles waging between security forces and armed assailants near the presidential palace in the Tunis suburb of Carthage and several parts of the city center.

The Associated Press reported members of the presidential guard were involved in the Carthage shootout. Security forces reportedly made dozens of arrests.

During the day a French photojournalists died from wounds sustained by being hit by a teargas cannister during riots on Friday. Reporters Without Borders said police had deliberately targeted him.

Earlier in the day, the city appeared to be getting back to normal. An occasional car sped down the streets and a few shops and cafes were open. Tunis residents tore down huge posters of former strongman president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who fled the country Friday after massive protests.

Meanwhile, those remaining in power, notably Interim President Fouad Mebazaa, held talks about forming a coalition government until the country holds elections - proposed for two months from now. The new government is expected to be announced Monday.

Political discussions were also taking place at a cafe in downtown Tunis, as men speculated about who would be the next president.

One man said he wanted Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghanouchi to take over, since he had plenty of experience.

But another man rejected this idea, saying the the prime minister was tied to Ben Ali's regime. He said Tunisia needs to get rid of the old regime and put a new system in place. Other men at the cafe agreed.

Tunisia's tumultuous power transition is being watched closely overseas to see whether or not it will be a model for democratic change in the Arab world.

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