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Controversial Tunisian foreign minister quits

By Associated Press
February 14, 2011

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TUNIS — Tunisia’s foreign minister resigned just weeks after he was named to replace the month-old transitional government’s first foreign minister, the official TAP news agency said yesterday.

The report didn’t provide any details about the reasons behind Ahmed Ounaies’s resignation, but critics have decried what they saw as the offhand way he described the “people’s revolution’’ that ousted the North African nation’s longtime autocratic president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, on Jan. 14. It was not immediately clear when Ounaies’s replacement would be named.

Ounaies’s predecessor, Kamel Morjane, was a minister under Ben Ali and one of several who initially kept their jobs in the transitional government formed days after a mass uprising forced Ben Ali into exile. Continuing street protests later forced the resignations of Morjane and most other Cabinet ministers with their roots in Ben Ali’s party.

Ounaies, a 75-year-old retired diplomat, was named to replace Morjane on Jan. 27 but soon ran into trouble. A televised interview angered many who didn’t appreciate the light tone with which he spoke about the deadly protests that toppled Ben Ali after 23 years in power.

Also yesterday, hundreds of Tunisians landed on a Sicilian island by the boatload, swelling the numbers of illegal migrants arriving on Italian shores in less than a week to well over 4,000.

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