TUNIS: Tunisia’s Islamist Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said Wednesday that his government was committed to the “principle” of resigning in line with a road map to end months of political deadlock.
“We repeat today our commitment to the principle of relinquishing power in line with the different phases envisaged in the road map,” Larayedh said. “We will not submit to anyone except the interests of the country.”
Until now the prime minister has said he would step down only after a new constitution has been adopted.
The opposition has been waiting for a “clear commitment” by the prime minister to quit within three weeks, as stipulated in the road map drawn up by mediators and agreed to by his Islamist party Ennahda, to allow a national dialogue to begin.
Mediators hope the dialogue between Tunisia’s bitterly divided political factions will mark a crucial step in the country’s democratic transition and end the crisis triggered by the July murder of opposition MP Mohammad Brahmi.
The opposition has not immediately reacted to Larayedh’s statement, which came five hours later than planned and held up the planned launch Wednesday afternoon of the long awaited national dialogue.
But thousands of opposition activists took to the streets of the capital earlier demanding the Ennahda-led government’s immediate departure.
Under the terms of the road map, the talks must lead within three weeks to the formation of a caretaker Cabinet.
Negotiators will also have one month to adopt a new constitution, electoral laws and a timetable for elections.
Meanwhile, fighting erupted in Sidi Bouzid, when members of the National Guard raided a militant hideout.
Six Tunisian police were killed in clashes with gunmen and two militants died.