Africa

Tunisia's UGTT trade union urges 'salvation cabinet'

Protesters front of the Prime Minister's office in Tunis, 21 January 2011
Image caption Protests have continued against leaders of Mr Ben Ali's party

Tunisia's main trade union has called for the government appointed after the overthrow of President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali to be replaced by a cabinet not linked with his regime.

A spokesman for the General Tunisian Workers' Union (UGTT) told AFP news agency such a "national salvation" cabinet was what Tunisians demanded.

On Tuesday the UGTT withdrew from the interim administration, led by long-time PM Mohammed Ghannouchi.

Mr Ben Ali fled abroad on 14 January.

Mr Ghannouchi has since left Mr Ben Ali's RCD party saying his government needed "clean hands", but also said the transition to democracy needed experienced politicians.

The UGTT's deputy head, Abid Briki, told AFP that its leaders had met on Friday and were calling for the government to stand down.

They also called for a "collegial national salvation government to be set up, in accordance with the demands of the street and political parties".

The call came as Tunisia began three days of mourning to honour those who died in the unrest that led to Mr Ben Ali's fall a week ago.

At least 78 people have been killed since a wave of protests began last December.

The government has faced continuing protests against RDC figures remaining in positions of power.

Last week four opposition ministers quit the cabinet just one day after it was formed over the issue.

The RCD has also dissolved its central committee.

His cabinet has promised to release all political prisoners and said previously banned political groups will now be legal.

It has also pledged to hold free elections within six months but has given no dates.

In a TV interview broadcast late on Friday, Mr Ghannouchi said he would leave politics after the next election.

And he added that under Mr Ben Ali he had been "afraid, like all Tunisians".

Mr Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia a week ago, following a wave of demonstrations.

The UN says as many as 100 people died as the police cracked down on the protests, which started to spread after a man set himself on fire in central Tunisia on 17 December.