Ousted Tunisian President lands in Saudi Arabia

Dubai, Jan 15 (PTI) Hours after being toppled in a deadlymass uprising over soaring unemployment and corruption,Tunisian President Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali today fled to SaudiArabia along with his family.

74-year-old Bin Ali arrived in the kingdom early todayafter fleeing Tunisia, Saudi King Abdullah''s office said in astatement carried by the sate-run SPA news agency, endingseveral hours of mystery over his whereabouts.

"Out of concern for the exceptional circumstances facingthe brotherly Tunisian people and in support of the securityand stability of their country... the Saudi government haswelcomed President Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali and his family tothe kingdom," the statement said.

It said Saudi Arabia stands totally alongside thebrotherly Tunisian people and hopes that they will closeranks in order to overcome this difficult period in theirhistory.

Bin Ali was driven from power last night after 23 yearsof iron-fisted rule by violent protests over risingunemployment and corruption.

The Tunisian government said at least 23 people werekilled in the riots, but opposition members claimed the deathtoll was three times the figure released by authorities.

Arabic media reports said that Bin Ali''s plane hadlanded overnight in Jeddah but his immediate destination wasnot yet known.

Bin Ali had signed a decree handing interim presidentialpowers to Prime Minister Mohammad Ghannouchi before flying outof Tunis.

Earlier there were speculation that Bin Ali was hoping tofind exile in Malta or Italy. while other reports suggested hewould make his way to France.

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