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Tunisia closes universities to quell unrest

Tunisia govt ordered the closure in a bid to stamp out clashes with police.



Tunis: Tunisia`s government ordered the indefinite closure of all schools and universities on Monday in an attempt to stamp out clashes with police which killed 14 civilians at the weekend.

Facing the worst unrest for decades, the government deployed the military onto the streets in the worst-hit areas late on Sunday and that appeared to have had an effect, with fewer clashes and no new deaths reported.

But witnesses in two provincial towns said police fired into the air to disperse crowds after funeral processions for people killed in clashes with police in the past two days turned into angry confrontations.

In New York, the United Nations said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was concerned about the escalation of violence and called for restraint. The European Union, Tunisia`s biggest trade partner, said it deplored the loss of life.

Tunisian officials say police fired in self-defence after being attacked by extremists armed with petrol bombs and sticks bent on destruction. Those taking part in the clashes say they are protesting about a lack of jobs.

President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who has been in office since 1987, sounded a defiant note in a televised address, saying the rioting was a "terrorist act" orchestrated by foreign parties trying to damage Tunisia.

Students were among those taking part in the riots and on Monday, a report said, adding riot police had surrounded a university campus to stop hundreds of students who were trying to protest in the street outside.

Most of the unrest has so far been limited to provincial towns, with the Mediterranean port city of Tunis largely unaffected.

"Following violence in universities and lycees ... we have decided to stop all the lessons in all educational establishments," the official TAP news agency quoted the Education Ministry as saying.

Job creation, no violence

In his television address, Ben Ali said urgent measures would be taken to create more jobs -- a major grievance behind the riots -- but violence would not be tolerated.

"The events were the work of masked gangs that attacked government buildings at night and even civilians inside their homes in a terrorist act that cannot be overlooked," he said.

"The events are being managed by foreign parties that do not want what is good for the country ... Justice has taken its course to investigate the circumstances of the events and determine responsibility."

A statement from the UN chief`s office said he was concerned about the escalation of violence.

"The Secretary-General calls for restraint and urges all parties to seek to resolve differences through dialogue. He underscores the importance of full respect for freedom of expression," it said.

Bureau Report

From Zee News

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