Holdover from Ben Ali resigns

McClatchy Newspapers

TUNIS, Tunisia — The last of the ministers in Tunisia’s transitional government to have served under ousted leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali resigned Monday.

Planning and International Cooperation Minister Mohamed Nouri Jouini, a minister since 2002, resigned hours after industry minister Mohammed Afif Chelbi tendered his resignation.

Their resignations, which follow that of prime minister Mohammed Ghannouchi Sunday, means the government of national unity is now entirely free of former members of Ben Ali’s regime.

The three politicians had come under pressure to step down after clashes between security forces and demonstrators left at least six dead in Tunis over the weekend.

The demonstrators were demanding a completely new administration.

Beji Caid Essebsi, 84, a former prime minister in the administration of post-independence leader Habib Bourguiba, has been named the country’s interim prime minister.

Essebsi’s government is tasked with running the country until elections, scheduled to be held by mid-July.

Tunisia was the first Arab state to overthrow a despotic leader through street protests in January.

Ben Ali went into exile in Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14 after a monthlong campaign of countrywide protests, in which more than 200 people were killed.