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Tunisian PM says unable to form technocrat gov't amid turmoil


14:51, February 19, 2013

TUNISIA, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Tunisia's major political parties failed, after hours of talks, to reach any consensus on forming a non-partisan cabinet of technocrats to end domestic crisis, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said Monday.

Jebali put forward the technocrat option as Tunisia's political bickering culminated in the crisis over the assassination of leading secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid in front of his house nearly two weeks ago.

The prime minister had threatened to resign if his initiative should be rejected.

"The initiative for a cabinet of technocrats did not receive full political consensus and has failed ... but it had spared the country chaos," Jebali said without mentioning whether or not he would resign.

Jebali said he would meet President Moncef Marzouki Tuesday to "discuss the next steps."

Jebali's own Islamist Ennahdha party, which had won election and formed a coalition with secular parties, did not support him and preferred a compromise government of technocrats and politicians, with such portfolios as foreign affairs, justice and interior given to party members while economy, trade and investment going to technocrats.

"If Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali refuses the offer, Ennahdha will have no other choice but to hand over the government's leadership to another party candidate," said Fethi Ayadi, chairman of Ennahdha's Shura Council.

Jebali's option, however, was welcomed by a number of major opposition parties.

Tunisia, since the assassination, has been plagued with violent protests with people attacking Ennahdha offices country-wide. One policeman was reportedly killed.

The turmoil had choked any effort to write a new constitution and elect a permanent government.

The political and economic cost of the failure would be dear, experts warned, citing the country's faltering economy and unsatisfied commons.

The North African country has never fully recovered since the overthrow of its long-time leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, haunted by poor economic performance and clashes between different sects.

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