Tunisian minister downplays Islamist threat

Tunisian foreign minister said Islamists will have to cooperate with other parties to make a mark.

Tunis: Tunisian Foreign Minister Mohamed Mouldi Kefi on Monday sought to allay fears abroad over the rise of Islamists in his country, saying they will have to cooperate with other parties to make a mark.

"I believe the Islamists will have to adapt to the modern world and to adapt to the values of democracy, of freedom, of alternance, or they will have no choice but to disappear," Kefi told a news conference in Berlin after talks with German counterpart Guido Westerwelle.

General elections are to be held in Tunisia on October 23.

The minister said people had been worried about the rise of Islamism in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, or Turkey, but that it had not happened there either.

"Even if the Ennahda (the Islamist party) gets 18 to 20 percent (of the vote), they will still have to form a coalition to work with the others parties and the other political forces, so I believe that today not a single party on the left or on the right will be able to run Tunisia or to form a government" by itself, he added.

"Probably 80 percent of the population will vote for the centre, the centre-left or the centre-right, so hopefully tomorrow democracy will be in the hands of moderate, tolerant open-minded people," he added.

The Islamist movement Ennahda (Renaissance) recently announced it had pulled out of a national commission tasked with drawing up political reforms.

The group, which was legalised early March after three decades as a banned opposition group, accused the panel of ignoring the true aims of Tunisians.

After years in political exile, some believe Tunisia`s hardline Islamist groups can play a leading role in the country`s future as it emerges from a popular uprising that forced president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali to flee after 23 years in power.

Bureau Report

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