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Ben Ali slams Tunisia unrest, but pledges more jobs

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-01-10

Following a weekend of social unrest that killed at least 14 people, Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali blasted the recent violence as “terrorist acts” in a televised address Monday. But he also pledged to create 300,000 new jobs.

In a televised speech to the nation Monday following a weekend of deadly social unrest that saw at least 14 people killed, Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali announced new measures to tackle rising unemployment and falling standards of living in the North African nation even as he denounced the recent violence as “terrorist acts”.

Condemning the recent social upheaval across the country, Ben Ali described the violence as “the work of masked gangs that attacked government buildings at night and even (targeted) civilians inside their homes in a terrorist act that cannot be overlooked.”

But in an apparent attempt to address the underlining reasons for the unrest, Ben Ali announced the creation of 300,000 new jobs, as well as tax concessions for investors investing in infrastructure projects. He did not however provide details of the new economic measures.

Ben Ali’s address came as fresh clashes broke out Monday between security forces and protestors demonstrating against high prices and unemployment in at least three Tunisian towns.

Disturbances rocked the eastern Tunisian towns of Kasserine and Thala and the central-western town of Regueb on Monday as funerals for the victims of the weekend’s violence descended into confrontations between civilian and security forces.

While Tunisian officials put the death toll of the weekend’s violence at 14, opposition groups say at least 20 people were killed.

A member of the UGTT workers' union succumbed to his injuries in hospital Monday after being shot on Sunday in Kasserine, a town 290 kilometres south of the capital of Tunis, union members told the AFP.

Protests erupted after a young graduate who worked as a street vendor in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid set himself on fire on Dec. 17 after police confiscated his produce, which he was selling without a permit. He succumbed to his wounds last week.

The price of stability

A popular tourist destination for Europeans, Tunisia has been gripped by violent social unrest since late December. Demonstrations are rare in the North African nation, which has been ruled by Ben Ali for the past 23 years.

In a country widely praised by Western nations as a model of stability and relative prosperity in the region, many Tunisians have largely accepted Ben Ali’s authoritarian leadership as a price they had to pay for stability.

But the growing access to dissent on the Internet, despite the government’s efforts to crackdown on the Internet, has seen popular discontent erupt on the streets of Tunisian towns -- although the capital has remained mostly calm.

While protestors say they have been demonstrating over the lack of jobs for young people, the authorities have so far described the violence as the work of violent extremists intent on vandalizing public property and confronting police officials.

Date created : 2011-01-10