Outgoing Tunisian PM Jebali to stand down: Ennahda party

TUNIS Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:28am EST

Tunisia's Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali speaks as he announces his resignation during a news conference in Tunis February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Tunisia's Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali speaks as he announces his resignation during a news conference in Tunis February 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi

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TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's outgoing prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, has refused to head the next government and his Islamist Ennahda party will name a replacement, a party statement said on Thursday.

Jebali, who is secretary-general of Ennahda, resigned on Tuesday after his plan for an apolitical technocrat cabinet to prepare for elections collapsed, largely because of opposition from within his party and its leader, Rached Ghannouchi.

"Jebali declined to accept nomination (as next primes minister)," Ennahda said. "A new candidate will be presented to the president of the republic this week."

The assassination of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid on February 6 plunged Tunisia into its worst political crisis since an uprising that inspired a wave of Arab revolts two years ago.

The killing sent protesters flooding into the streets, exposing the deep rifts between Tunisia's empowered Islamists and their liberal and secular-minded opponents.

Jebali had proposed a technocrat cabinet to replace his Ennahda-led coalition, which included two secular parties, to save Tunisia's fledgling democracy and ailing economy from further strife.

(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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