Tunisian interim leader resigns amid new clashes

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Tunis, Feb 27 (AFP) Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchiresigned today, as security forces clashed with protesters inTunis demanding the removal of some ministers of his interimgovernment.

"I have decided to quit as prime minister," Ghannouchitold a news conference, saying that he thought carefullybefore taking the decision which was supported by his family.

"I am not running away from responsibility. This is toopen the way for a new prime minister," he said.

"I am not ready to be the person who takes decisionsthat would end up causing casualties," Ghannouchi said.

"This resignation will serve Tunisia, and therevolution and the future of Tunisia," he added.

Police fired tear gas and warning shots on thecapital''s central Habib Bourguiba avenue to dispersestone-throwing youths on a third day of violence.

Security forces acted to stop protesters, who werechanting anti-government slogans, from reaching the interiorministry, AFP reporters said.

Rampaging youths hurled rocks at buildings to breakthe windows and threw up barricades to impede the police whowere not able to disperse them.

Three people were killed when an anti-governmentprotest in Tunis on Saturday turned violent as riot police andmasked police in civilian clothes fired warning shots and teargas at hundreds of protesters.

Demonstrators were demanding the removal from theinterim government of members of the regime of Zine El AbidineBen Ali, whose toppling on January 14 after weeks of protestssparked similar uprising across the Arab world.

The interior ministry said the three who diedyesterday were among a dozen wounded, with several members ofthe security forces also hurt in the clashes.

More than 100 people were arrested for involvement inthe unrest yesterday and 88 people after a demonstrationFriday, it said, blaming the violence on "agitators" it saidhad infiltrated peaceful demonstrators.

The ministry also said that these agitators had usedyoung high school students as "human shields to commit acts ofviolence, arson to spread terror among the population andtargeting the security forces".

In the biggest of several rallies against thetransitional authority, about 100,000 protesters marched downthe capital''s main avenue on Friday shouting slogans,including against Ghannouchi who was in Ben Ali''s government.

Clashes left 21 police officers injured and threepolice stations damaged, the interior ministry said. (AFP)

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