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Tunisia in turmoil over food prices

TUNIS, Tunisia, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The high price of food and no income to buy it have produced a volatile mixture in Tunisia where clashes with police have turned deadly, officials said Monday.

Amnesty International called on Tunisian authorities to protect protesters following weekend confrontations it said left at least 23 people dead with more deaths in Kasserine Monday. Government sources put the death toll at 14.

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UPI's Martin Walker discusses Tunisia on NPR

Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, leader of the opposition Progressive Democratic Party, told Radio France Internationale his party and others are urging President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to stop using live ammunition against protesters. The government said the protest is legitimate but it cannot tolerate attacks on public property.

The Interior Ministry said two people died Sunday in Kasserine and three were killed there Saturday. Five people were killed in Tala and four in Requeb. Amnesty International said at least 13 people had died in Kasserine and five each in Tala and Requeb.

CNN reported Minister of Information Samir Abidi said more than 30 police officers were injured.

The weekend clashes were the worst since protests over rising food prices and rampant youth unemployment broke out in mid-December. They began after a 26-year-old man, selling fruit and vegetables on the street, set himself afire and died after police confiscated his produce.

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Chebbi appealed to Ben Ali to call an immediate cease-fire to "spare the lives of innocent citizens."

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