TUNIS Nov 30 Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki
asked the North African state's Islamist prime minister on
Friday to appoint a new cabinet in response to violent protests
over economic hardship.
Clashes between protesters and police in the northwest town
of Siliana wounded more than 220 people this week, with at least
17 blinded by birdshot, according to medical sources.
U.N. human rights officials said the security forces used
excessive force to quell the protests, in some of their harshest
criticism of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali's government since it
took office in October last year.
For many Tunisians, the clashes recalled harsh policing
under Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the veteran autocrat brought down
in the first Arab Spring uprising in January 2011.
"The government must be changed to have a competent
technocrat cabinet and not a party political one," Marzouki, a
secularist, said in an address carried on state television. "If
the clashes continue and the government's response is not
adequate, there will be chaos and a dead-end."
Jebali, who hails from Tunisia's biggest Islamist movement
Ennahda, has rejected calls for his resignation and accused
leftists of sowing disorder.
Marzouki's demand for a reshuffle raises the pressure on
Jebali from his political opponents but he is not obliged under
the constitution to obey the call.