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Larayedh to unveil new Tunisia government


Premier-designate Ali Larayedh will unveil on Thursday night a new coalition government after tortuous negotiations aimed at ending a serious political crisis, the office of President Moncef Marzouki said.

"He will present the list of the new government's members and then hold a news conference," Marzouki aide Chaker Bouajila said, without providing details on the new cabinet line-up.

Earlier, Larayedh was reportedly going in to tense, last-minute negotiations on forming a new coalition government to defuse Tunisia's political crisis.

But the hopes of Larayedh and his ruling Islamist party Ennahda to form a broadly based coalition appeared compromised when three political parties that had been asked to join announced they were pulling out of the talks.

Consequently, only Ennahda and its secular allies in the previous government -- Marzouki's Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol -- were actually discussing the composition of a new cabinet and a proposed government programme.

With less than 48 hours before a constitutional deadline, Larayedh, the outgoing interior minister, had left open the possibility of failure as he prepared to meet party leaders.

"We have held talks with the parties individually and then in groups. Now we are going to discuss the makeup of the government. Much of it is agreed but some points remain," he told Mosaique FM radio earlier Thursday.

"Failure doesn't scare me because what is asked of me is to have a clear conscience and make the maximum effort. Everyone will have to take responsibility for the result," Larayedh said.

He was tapped on February 22 to head a new government, with a two-week deadline to present his team and government programme to Marzouki. The deadline runs out at midnight on Friday.

Two of six movements which had taken part in the talks on forming a new line-up walked out on Wednesday, with disputes centred on the key posts of interior and justice ministers.

Tunisia has been in a political crisis since the February assassination of leftist politician Chokri Belaid, a vocal critic of the Islamist-led government.

That led to the resignation of prime minister Hamadi Jebali after he failed to forge a non-partisan government of technocrats when his ruling Ennahda party refused to support his efforts.

While Ennahda, to which Larayedh also belongs, has made a key concession in accepting that key ministries be entrusted to independent candidates, the parties have so far failed to agree on the names of the ministers.

If a cabinet is not named by Friday night, Marzouki must choose another politician to try to form a government.