Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Tunisia's prime minister resigns; Omani police fire on protesters

Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi delivers a speech during a press conference to announce his resignation on Feb. 27, 2011 in Tunis.


Tunisia Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced his resignation on Sunday following a wave of street protests.

Critics have accused Mr. Ghannouchi of being to close to the North African state's former government, toppled in an uprising last month, and of failing to enact reforms.

"My resignation will provide a better atmosphere for the new era," he said, adding he wanted to prevent more victims in the country's political unrest.

Story continues below advertisement

Three people have been killed and several people wounded in clashes between security forces and demonstrators since Friday over Mr. Ghannouchi's role in the interim government.

"My resignation is in the service of the country," he said on state TV.

North Africa's most developed state has been in flux since a wave of protests toppled former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on Jan. 14, encouraging a similar revolt in Egypt and triggering protests across the Arab world.

But many Tunisians have become frustrated over the slow pace of change since the revolution.

Mr. Ghannouchi restated the government's pledge to hold elections to replace Mr. Ben Ali by July 15.

After a series of gaffes between France and Tunisia, French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie presented her resignation in a letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday.


Story continues below advertisement

Omani police fired rubber bullets at stone-throwing demonstrators demanding political reform on Sunday, killing two people, and protesters set government buildings and cars ablaze, witnesses said. The trouble in the industrial town of Sohar was a rare sign of discontent in the normally sleepy Gulf Arab sultanate and followed a wave of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world.

The witnesses said more than 2,000 protesters had gathered for a second day in a square in Sohar, on the north coast, before police tried to disperse them, first with tear gas and batons and then rubber bullets.

"Two people have died after police fired rubber bullets into the crowd," one witness, who declined to be named, told Reuters from Sohar.

Another said the police had used live ammunition, but that could not immediately be confirmed. Troops deployed in the area, but did not intervene, witnesses said.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, trying to ease tensions in U.S. ally Oman, reshuffled his cabinet on Saturday, a week after a small protest in the capital Muscat. He has ruled for four decades, exercising absolute power. Political parties are banned.


Story continues below advertisement

Iraq's prime minister on Sunday gave his ministers 100 days to improve their performance or risk being fired - an apparent response to a string of deadly anti-government protests against poor public services.

Also Sunday, Iraq's parliament speaker called for new provincial and municipal elections as a way of addressing the public's growing frustration over corruption, high unemployment and electricity shortages.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's warning to his ministers and Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi's call for elections came two days after thousands participated in the largest anti-government protests in Iraq since unrest began spreading in the Arab world several weeks ago.

Iraqi leaders appear increasingly concerned that the protests, inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, could spiral out of control. They are now scrambling to show that they are responsive to the public's demands.


Hussein al-Ahmar, a prominent Yemeni tribal figure resigned from President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ruling party on Saturday and called for the veteran Arab leader's overthrow, a day after fierce clashes in Aden killed seven people. More than 10,000 people had taken to the streets after Friday prayers demanding Mr. Saleh step down.

Thousands of supporters and opponents of Mr. Saleh also held rival demonstrations in the capital Sanaa, in a test of support for Mr. Saleh's rule. Protesters outside Sanaa University, repeating slogans which have echoed round the Arab world chanted: "The people demand the downfall of the regime." Mr. Saleh has said he will not give in to "anarchy and killing". At least 24 people have died since Feb. 17 in daily anti-Saleh protests. Mr. Saleh has pledged to step down in 2013 and reform parliamentary election laws.


Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has ordered that state employees on temporary labour contracts be given permanent jobs, in another apparent bid to insulate the kingdom from a wave of protests in the Arab world.

The top oil exporter has so far escaped major protests against poverty, corruption and oppression that have spread through the region, toppling entrenched leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and reaching neighbours Bahrain and Oman.

Abdullah returned home on Wednesday from three months of medical treatment abroad for back treatment and unveiled benefits for Saudis worth around $36-billion to address social pressures such as unemployment and housing.

On Sunday, the king, who is around 87, also ordered all Saudi nationals in temporary public sector jobs be given permanent employment, state news agency SPA said.

SPA gave no details but Banque Saudi Fransi Chief Economist John Sfakianakis said some 90,000 would benefit.

No political reforms, such as municipal council polls, have accompanied the state handouts despite repeated calls by opposition groups. Saudi Arabia has no elected parliament or parties and allows little public dissent. In an open letter published on Sunday, around 100 Saudi intellectuals, activists and university professors called on the king to launch political reforms and allow citizens to have a greater say in ruling the country.

They called for a "rule of law to which all - government officials and citizens would be subjected," according to a statement.


A Bahraini hardline Shi'ite dissident said on Sunday he would accept a Western-style constitutional monarchy in the Gulf Arab kingdom if protesters supported the measure.

Hassan Mushaimaa was allowed to return to Bahrain as one of the concessions by the ruling al-Khalifa family to Bahrain's majority Shi'ites who have been at the forefront of nearly two weeks of protests demanding more say in government.

Mr. Mushaimaa, leader of the mostly Shi'ite Haq movement which has in the past questioned the legitimacy of the king, also did not rule out the Sunni royal family's removal.

"If it is a real monarchy as we know it in England, the royal family are honorary but do not control government, OK," he told a news conference, adding that no member of the al-Khalifa family should be in government.

"If all the people, and especially the people on Pearl Square agree on this [then that is good]... that's why the Haq movement and me did not fix demands, we are talking about the demands of the people."

He was referring to the young demonstrators occupying Pearl Square in the capital Manama who are demanding the removal of the al-Khalifa family. More broadly, the Shi'ites say the Sunni-led government excludes them from jobs, healthcare and other opportunities, a charge the government has denied.

The protesters were becoming increasingly vocal in their demands and trying to put more pressure on the government by marching into Manama's commercial districts.

On Sunday, they marched to a court building in Manama's commercial district, their deepest foray into the city so far. Referring to the king, they chanted, "Down, down Hamad!"

With files from the Associated Press

Report an error
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.