Tunisia to resume crisis talks over political impasse

By The Citizen

Tunisia was to push ahead on Monday with talks to resolve a political crisis sparked by the assassination of an opposition politician last month, but with no signs of compromise.

The ruling Islamist Ennahda party was to hold fresh talks with the powerful UGTT trade union to try and find a way out of the weeks-old crisis.

Ennahda revealed on Sunday that its leader Rached Ghannouchi had met the chief of the opposition party Nidaa Tounes, ex-premier Beji Caid Essebsi, a sworn enemy of the Islamists, while on a European tour last week.

Few details of the meeting emerged, but late on Sunday Ennahda's decision-making body said it endorsed the position of Ghannouchi, who has proposed a broad-based national unity government while rejecting opposition calls for the formation of a technocrat administration.

'We remain committed to our approach… We are for a national unity government headed by Ennahda,' the president of the party 's Shura Council, Fethi Ayadi, told a news conference.

He said his party supported the idea of 'national dialogue,' under the auspices of the presidency and the UGTT, whose leader Houcine Abassi is expected to hold talks with Ghannouchi.

Their discussions last week failed to achieve any concrete results.

Separately, the National Salvation Front, a loose coalition of opposition parties from the centre-right to the far left who have mobilised anti-government protests since the 25 July assassination of opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi, was due to meet on Monday.

Opposition activists are demanding the resignation of the government led by Ennahda, which they accuse of eroding women's rights and of failing to rein in hardline Islamists, blamed for the murder of Brahimi and leftist politician Chokri Belaid in February.

Ennahda's supporters are determined that after long years of repression under president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in Tunisia's 2011 revolution, the party not be denied a share of power.

Last week, the two sides held rival rallies, highlighting the deep divisions over the balance to be struck between secularism and democracy following the revolution.

Ennahda insists it has the right to lead the government after emerging as the largest party in an October 2011 election for a constituent assembly. AFP