Clinton phones Tunisia to relay support

Jan. 24, 2011 at 11:08 AM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Washington is encouraged by a move by the interim government in Tunisia to embrace democratic reform, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

Clinton spoke by telephone with Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi to express support for a democratic society in the North African state.

A protest suicide inspired a revolution in Tunisia that forced President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia. Protesters in Tunis are calling on Ghannouchi to step down, which he agreed to do last week.

He said he wouldn't run in the next elections but didn't give a specific date for the poll. The election should be within the next six months, however.

Clinton "commended the interim government's first, but significant, steps to begin to investigate corruption and past abuses and to work toward political reform."

Meanwhile, a popular television network was back on the air Monday after its president was accused of inciting unrest in support of Ben Ali.

Demonstrations in Tunisia were relatively peaceful during the weekend, though security forces braced for more unrest Monday after convoys of protesters arrived in the capital from the country's impoverished south.

Tunisians began three days of mourning Friday for people killed during anti-government protests.

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