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Russian tourists to leave Tunisia

TUNIS, Tunisia, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Russia has sent a Boeing 767 airliner to Tunisia to evacuate Russian tourists from the riot-hit North African country, officials said.

The Transaero jet took off from Moscow's Domodedovo airport and arrived in Tunisia Sunday morning, RIA Novosti reported.

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Tunisia briefly closed its air space after President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled protests that turned violent on Friday. He was said to have fled to Saudi Arabia after being denied political asylum in France.

"A 235-seat Boeing767 airliner will evacuate 192 Russian tourists who arrived in Tunisia aboard Transaero passenger jets, and also 27 tourists who arrived in Tunisia on their own and had registered for the flight. For the remaining seats, Transaero will organize air ticket sale directly at Monastir airport," the airline said.

Thousands of people took to the streets in mid-December to protest the state's economic policies.

Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi took over as the country's interim leader Friday.

Saturday Tunisia's parliamentary speaker, Fouad Mebazaa, was sworn in as interim president.

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