Tunisia's assembly to restart work on constitution
TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's transitional parliament will resume work on a new constitution after a month-long suspension, its president said on Tuesday, a step that may ease the deadlock between the country's Islamist-led government and secular opposition.
The opposition, riled by the assassinations of two of its leaders and emboldened by Egypt's army-backed ousting of an Islamist president, held mass protests in a bid to topple the government and dissolve the Assembly.
Talks between the sides stumbled and the political crisis threatened to delay the path to fresh elections in a country that had been seen as the most promising example for fledgling democracies that followed revolts in Libya, Egypt and Yemen.
The president of the transitional parliament, Mustafa Ben Jaafar, a member of smaller coalition party Ettakatol, halted its work a month ago after the assassination of secular opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi in July.
Months earlier, another secular leader, Chokri Belaid, was killed in a similar attack that stoked violent protests.
Ben Jaafar said the constituent assembly would restart initial work this week and hold full assembly meetings next week to finish the new constitution, a key step before planned elections.
Two-and-a-half years after Tunisia's revolt toppled autocratic leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and triggered a wave of Arab uprisings, the North African nation is struggling to break the political impasse.
Hussein Abassi, the head of Tunisia's powerful national labor union movement that has been seeking to negotiate an end to the stalemate, said on Tuesday he would propose to restart talks between the government and opposition this week.
Tunisia's ruling Islamist party Ennahda has agreed to step aside for a caretaker government until planned elections, but rejects opposition demands it resign immediately. It said it wanted to give the assembly time to finish the new constitution.
Tunisia's transition since its 2011 revolt has been mostly peaceful, with moderate Islamist Ennahda party sharing power with smaller secular parties.
But divisions between Islamists and major secular parties widened with opposition leaders accusing the government of trying to impose an Islamist agenda, mismanaging the economy and failing to curb radical Islamist groups.
(Writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Mike Collett-White)