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Tunisians celebrate in the streets after President Ben Ali promises not to run for re-election in 2014 and orders security forces to stop shooting at protesters. Deadly riots have gripped the country over the past few weeks.
Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali backed down in the face of deadly riots in his country and vowed Thursday not to run for re-election in 2014.
Ben Ali has been in office for 23 years and now faces the worst political crisis in Tunisia's history as the nation's youth protest high unemployment and corruption. Earlier in the week, the riots led to the government closing high schools and universities.
The president's announcement prompted celebrations on the streets, reports the Australian.
"We are no longer afraid," some chanted, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In the center of Tunis, where only hours earlier police had clashed with protesters, hundreds poured into the streets to celebrate, ignoring the curfew. They waved flags and chanted "Viva Ben Ali!" according to the Associated Press.
"We are happy because he spoke the language of the people. We hope that all the bad memories will be left in the past and we will have only freedom," Ramzi Ben Kraim, a 22-year-old student, told the AP.
In addition to vowing to not change the constitution to allow him to run again, Ben Ali promised press freedom and ordered his security forces to stop shooting at protesters. The crackdown has drawn criticism domestically and abroad. The official death toll is 23 civilians killed, but opposition leaders say many more have died.
"I understand the Tunisians, I understand their demands," the president said in a speech. "I am sad about what is happening now after 50 years of service to the country, military service, all the different posts, 23 years of the presidency."
The violence has threatened the stability of a close U.S. ally in its fight against terrorism as well as the image of the nation as a tranquil tourist destination, The New York Times reports.
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