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Tunisia extends talks on new leader

AFP-JIJI

Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party Ennahda and the opposition have agreed to extend their negotiations after failing to choose a new prime minister to steer the country out of its political crisis.

“We have not reached a consensus on the prime minister. . . . We are going to continue discussions for another day or two in order to arrive at a consensus,” said senior Ennahda official Ameur Larayedh after around 12 hours of talks Saturday.

According to politicians, the negotiators could not decide between Mohamed Ennaceur, 79, supported by the opposition, and Ahmed Mestiri, 88, backed by Ennahda and its allies.

Both are well respected and served under the late Habib Bourguiba, who led the fight for Tunisia’s independence from its French colonial masters and served as its first president.

Tensions have gripped Tunisia since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who came to power in 1987. The current crisis was triggered by the murder this year of two opposition politicians by suspected Islamist radicals.

Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party whose resignation has been demanded by the opposition, has pledged to step down and allow the creation of a government of independents as part of a plan to resolve the crisis.