Canada welcomes new government in Tunisia

Brother-in-law of ousted Tunisian dictator seeks refugee status in Canada.

Montreal: Canada is pleased that a new government has been formed in Tunisia, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said on Saturday.

"Canada is encouraged by reports that the country is returning to stability. We urge the new unity government to prepare for free and fair elections as a way of addressing the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Tunisian people," Cannon said in a statement.

"In the interim, we urge the government to continue its consultations with all Tunisians as it builds a new society committed to democracy, human rights and the rule of law," he added.

In Tunis, calm returned to the capital on Saturday a day after a new transition cabinet was sworn in and interim Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi vowed a transition to democracy and an economic revival.

Cannon added that the government of Canada "stands ready to support the Tunisian people during the months ahead”.

The 69-year-old Prime Minister -- a holdover from the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali regime who has been in office since 1999 -- has promised to hold democratic elections within six months.

Cannon also confirmed on CBC that Belhassen Trabelsi, a brother in law of former president Ben Ali, had requested refugee status in Canada.

"I understand that there has been a request for refugee status as well and we`ve indicated that these people are not welcome in Canada but obviously, that having been stated Canada is nonetheless a country that has a legislation and we do abide by the rule of law and this individual as well as the members of his family do have the possibility to use the legislation that`s in place to go before the courts and make his case," Cannon explained.

Bureau Report

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