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Tunisia Lifts Curfew, Extends State of Emergency

Tunisian interim President Fouad Mebazaa arrives for the first cabinet meeting since the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunis, January 20, 2011 (file photo)

Tunisia's interim government has extended a state of emergency that was imposed last month before Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted as president, but the government says it is ending an overnight curfew.

Both measures were imposed in mid-January, shortly before Mr. Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia following a popular uprising.

The interior ministry said Tuesday the state of emergency will remain in place until further notice. It said the extension is part of vigilance against anything that could threaten the security of the state and citizens or undermine public order.

The ministry also said that security forces may use their weapons against what it called "suspicious persons" who try to escape or who do not comply with orders to stop.

The interim government has lifted a four-hour curfew that began at midnight each night, but a ban on public gatherings of more than three people remains in place.

Tunisia's demonstrations inspired protests in other countries of the Middle East and North Africa, including the Egyptian uprising that led to last Friday's departure of long-time President Hosni Mubarak.