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Tunisia ends 20-year ban for Islamist party

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - 10:32

Tunis: A Tunisian Islamist party banned for
more than 20 years was legalised on Wednesday, while the country`s
most prominent opposition figure quit the unity government
amid renewed uncertainty about where Tunisia is headed.
The Ennahdha party branded an Islamic terrorist group
by Tunisia`s deposed leader but considered moderate by
scholars has rebounded onto the political scene since a
popular uprising forced out autocratic President Zine El
Abidine Ben Ali in January.

Ennahdha members want a role for Islam in their
country`s politics, but have not called explicitly for any
specific laws enforcing Islamic practices.

Still, their activism has fed jitters that extremism
may be on the rise in Tunisia, long a Westward-looking nation
where women enjoy widespread freedoms, Muslim headscarves are
banned in public buildings and abortions, a deep taboo in most
Muslim societies, are legal.

The party requested legalisation a month ago and
received it Tuesday, party spokesman Abdallah Zouari told The
Associated Press, calling it a "step in favor of the Tunisian
revolution." He said the party will focus on rebuilding and
electing a new leader to prepare for upcoming elections.

Tunisia`s caretaker government is trying to restore
stability after weeks of deadly clashes between police and
protesters that led to Ben Ali`s ouster and sparked revolts
across the Arab world.
Tunisia also is struggling with a gathering exodus of
refugees fleeing violence and chaos in neighbouring Libya. Aid
workers at the Libya-Tunisian border, where authorities say up
to 75,000 people have fled Libya in just the past nine days,
warned today that the situation is reaching a crisis point.

Tunisia had enjoyed relative calm until recent days,
when new clashes left six dead and the prime minister resigned
after 11 years as the head of government. This raised new
questions about the future of this country, long a haven for
European tourists and ally in US efforts to fight terrorism.

Six government ministers have quit their posts since Sunday,
including three Tuesday, apparently trying to distance
themselves from a caretaker government seen as too linked to
the old regime.


First Published: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - 10:32

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