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Tunisia Wants to Arrest Deposed President


Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (2008 file photo)

Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (2008 file photo)

Officials in Tunisia say they have issued an international arrest warrant for deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and members of his family.

The Justice Ministry said Wednesday Mr. Ben Ali and his family are accused of stealing property and transferring money abroad.

The announcement came as riot police clashed with protesters in the capital and the country's interim leaders prepared to reshuffle the government.

Video footage of Tunisia protests:

Police on Wednesday fired tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators, who witnesses say were throwing rocks at police.

Government spokesman Taieb Baccouche said Tuesday the new Cabinet lineup mainly will fill posts vacated by five resignations over the past week, including three labor union representatives and one opposition leader.

A source close to the government told the French news agency, AFP, the resignations will be replaced by independent figures. But the government remains dominated by former members of deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's RCD party.

Hundreds rallied in Tunis on Tuesday in support of the interim government formed after Mr. Ben Ali's fall. They later clashed with a larger anti-government crowd calling for a clean break with the old regime. No injuries were reported.

Also Tuesday, the Reuters news agency said soldiers fired in the air to disperse hundreds of protesters in the central city of Gefsa demanding better economic opportunities - the first time the army has intervened since Mr. Ben Ali's departure on January 14. Reuters cited witnesses in Gefsa as saying that a young man set himself on fire following the army's intervention, suffering severe burns.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said Tuesday he fears the Tunisian revolution is being exploited by "foreign interests." Mr. Gadhafi voiced support for the revolution, in stark contrast to earlier comments in which he praised Tunisia's ousted leader, saying he regretted Mr. Ben Ali's fall.

Also Tuesday, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman, said that only free and fair elections will strengthen and give credibility to the north African state's embattled leadership. Feltman, who arrived in Tunis Monday, is the first foreign official to visit the country after the former president's ouster.

Mr. Ben Ali fled the North African country amid an eruption of unrest over unemployment, rising prices and corrupt rule. The government has said at least 78 people have been killed in the violence. U.N. officials say the death toll may be as high as 100.

Timeline of Tunisia on Dipity.

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