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Tunisian vendor who set self alight dies: medic

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

An impoverished vendor who torched himself in a Tunis street has died, a medic said Wednesday, his act of desperation adding urgency to politicians' efforts to end Tunisia's political and economic woes.

Twenty-seven-year-old Adel Khadri, who torched himself on Tuesday, "died today at 5:30 am (0430 GMT) as a result of severe burns," Imed Toiuibi, the director of the Ben Arous Burns Centre, told AFP.

Officials said Khadri, from a very poor family in the northwestern locality of Jendoubam, had arrived in the capital a few months ago to look for work.

Witnesses quoted him as shouting: "This is a young man who sells cigarettes because of unemployment," before setting himself on fire on the steps of the municipal theatre on Habib Bourguiba Avenue -- epicentre of the uprising that toppled ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali more than two years ago.

The number of people committing suicide or attempting to has multiplied since young street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, in a drastic act of protest against police harassment.

Bouazizi's self-immolation in the town of Sidi Bouzid ignited a mass uprising that ousted Ben Ali the following month and touched off the Arab Spring uprisings.

Economic and social difficulties were the key factors that brought down Ben Ali's regime and two years since he fled to Saudi Arabia, unemployment and poverty still plague the North African country.

The economy was badly affected by the revolution, which paralysed the strategic tourism sector, although the country is out of recession and posted 3.6 percent growth in 2012.

The unemployment rate is about 17 percent, and is especially high among young graduates.

In addition to economic hardships, Tunisia is grappling with a political crisis exacerbated by the murder last month of Chokri Belaid, a leftist opposition leader.

The country is still without a fixed political system due to a lack of consensus between the main parties.

The ruling Islamist Ennahda party is pushing for a pure parliamentary system while others are demanding the president retain key powers.

Parliament was to meet on Wednesday to vote on a new government, after premier-designate Ali Larayedh assured MPs on Tuesday his new team was up to the job of pulling the country out of its political mire.

The lawmakers met Tuesday to debate the new cabinet line-up headed by Larayedh, himself a member of Ennahda, but officials postponed the vote until Wednesday, speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar said.

Larayedh said he was determined that his government would serve until year end, stressing his priorities were to organise elections, deal with unemployment and the cost of living.

The new cabinet was formed as part of efforts to resolve the political impasse, which last month brought down the government of Hamadi Jabali.

Lawmakers are also to vote on a timetable for the adoption of a new constitution, with a proposed date to vote on the charter in July and hold legislative elections in October.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130313/tunisian-vendor-who-set-self-alight-dies-medic-0