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Tunisia names Ben Ali veteran as new foreign minister after Paris gaffe

Tunisia's interim government on Monday named veteran diplomat Mouldi Kefi as the country's new foreign minister. He replaces Ahmed Ounaies (pictured), who quit just two weeks into the job after a controversial visit to France.



AFP - Tunisia's interim government on Monday named career diplomat Mouldi Kefi, who served in the regime of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, as its new minister of foreign affairs.
Kefi, 65, replaces Ahmed Ounaies who quit on February 13 after two weeks in office amid criticism following a visit to France.
"Mouldi Kefi has been designated minister of foreign affairs in the transitional government," the official TAP news agency said, citing the presidency. He was expected to be sworn in Monday.
Kefi served under presidents Habib Bourguiba and Ben Ali, and was a diplomat in Prague, East Berlin and Moscow, according to his official biography.
He was later appointed ambassador to Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Indonesia.
Kefit succeeds Ounaies after the 75-year-old diplomat quit a day before a visit to Tunisia by Catherine Ashton, the European Union's top diplomat.
Ounaies was appointed foreign ministry secretary of state in the first government of national unity announced on January 17, three days after Ben Ali ended 23 years in power by fleeing weeks of protests.
In a January 27 reshuffle by Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, he was appointed foreign minister.
On a visit to Paris he hailed his French counterpart Michele Alliot-Marie as "above all a friend of Tunisia" at the very moment she faced calls to resign over her links to a businessman with alleged ties to Ben Ali's regime.
Alliot-Marie is under pressure to resign over the links while France, the former colonial power, has been criticised for failing to realise the strength of the opposition to Ben Ali.
The interim authority is tasked with leading Tunisia to elections within six months but has faced continued protests because it includes members of Ben Ali's government, including Ghannouchi.
On Sunday a protest by around 4,000 people in central Tunis demanded the resignation of Ghannouchi, who was appointed prime minister in 1999.
The authorities have appointed a panel to prepare free elections while several opposition parties have demanded the election of a constituent assembly to write a new constitution.
The foreign ministry announced Sunday meanwhile that the interim government had asked Saudi Arabia to extradite Ben Ali to face charges of involvement in alleged crimes relating to the weeks of protests that led to his ouster.
At least 200 people were killed when security forces tried to put down the protests, including by opening fire, according to various sources including the United Nations.


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