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Thousands of Tunisians Rally in Support of Islamist-Led Govt

Tens of thousands of Tunisians have rallied in Tunis in support of the country's Islamist-led government, which faces growing opposition demands to quit.

The pro-government activists joined Saturday's demonstration in the capital's Kasbah Square in response to appeals by the ruling Islamist Ennahda party for a show of public support for its "legitimacy" to govern.

Ennahda won a 2011 election for a transitional Constituent Assembly following the ouster of longtime autocratic President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising earlier that year.

But in the past week, Tunisia's Ennahda-led government has faced mass protests by secular opposition groups demanding its resignation for failing to prevent the assassinations of two opposition politicians. The protests began after the July 25 shooting of lawmaker Mohamed Brahmi in Tunis. His death followed the killing of prominent opposition politician Chokri Belaid in February.

Tunisian opposition parties have called for more anti-government demonstrations in the coming days. They have been emboldened by the Egyptian military's ouster of the nation's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi last month in a move backed by secular Egyptian opposition groups.

Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said Saturday his nation needs national unity and calm so that the armed forces can fight terrorism, rather than "waste" its efforts in dealing with protests, as he put it.



Tunisian forces launched an offensive against Islamist militants near the Algerian border on Friday, in response to their killing of eight Tunisian soldiers earlier in the week.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Larayedh also reiterated an offer to engage in a dialogue with the opposition on expanding his government. But, he ruled out a dissolving of the Constituent Assembly.

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