Tunisia's outgoing PM apologizes to Tunisian people

Tunis Thu Feb 21, 2013 2:59pm 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 apologized on Thursday to the Tunisian people and urged them to unite to pull the country out of its political crisis.

Jebali, head of government for 14 months, has refused to lead the next administration and his Islamist Ennahda party says it will soon name a replacement.

Jebali, 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.

"I apologies to the people of Tunisia because I failed and disappointed them," Jabali said in a televised speech to the nation.

But he said he was "optimistic that consensus will win and the revolution will win".

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

The killing sent protesters flooding into the streets, exposing the deep rifts between the Islamists in power and their liberal and secular-minded opponents.

Jebali called on politicians, trade unionists and journalists to rally around the interests of the country.

"Tunisians must be patient during the coming months," he said. "Demands and sit-ins must stop until the revolution wins."

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; editing by Andrew Roche)

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