Tunisia president asks for 6 month trial period

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2011 2:32 PM
Tunisia president asks for 6 month trial period

Tunisia's newly elected president said he is prepared to resign if life in the country has not improved after six months.

In an interview on state television late Wednesday, Moncef Marzouki called for patience while the new government got the country back on track after a year of upheaval marked by strikes and demonstrations.

"After this period, you can hold us accountable and I am ready to resign" if the situation hasn't changed, he said.

Tunisians ended half a century of dictatorship in January with a popular uprising that sent President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fleeing to Saudi Arabia.

Their uprising inspired pro-democracy movements across the Arab world, but also dealt a blow to the economy, especially its tourism and phosphate mining industry, which has been brought to a stand still by strikes losing the nation $650 million in income.

Around 18 percent of the work force is unemployed, a figure that rises to 28 percent in the impoverished interior where the uprising against the government began a year ago.

Marzouki said the budget had a deficit of at least $3 billion dollars, but he noted that the European Union has promised some $4 billion in aid.

Tunisians went to the polls in October and elected an assembly that will form an interim government and write a new constitution.

Marzouki was elected president by the assembly and he appointed a prime minister from an Islamist party which won the most votes and has promised to form a government this week to tackle the nation's problems.

Marzouki said his first international visit will be to neighboring Libya, their second largest trading partner after France.

"I will tell them, we need you and you need us," he said.