New Protest Calls As Tunisia Marks Uprising Anniversary

New Protest Calls As Tunisia Marks Uprising Anniversary

"This will concern about 250,000 families", he said.

Three local leaders of the Popular Front, the main opposition bloc, were detained in Gafsa for allegedly setting fire to a government building, a judicial source said.

At the opening of his consultations, Essebsi accused the foreign press of "amplifying" the social unrest and damaging the country's image in its coverage of protests.

The announcement comes the day before the seventh anniversary of anti-government protests that led to the ouster of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and triggered the so-called Arab Spring, a revolutionary wave of demonstrations across North Africa and the Middle East.

The president said he would visit a disadvantaged neighbourhood of Tunis that had been the scene of street protests.

Proposals were raised "to pull out of this tension" without scrapping a contested 2018 budget, said Rached Ghannouchi, head of the Islamist movement Ennahdha in Tunisia's ruling coalition, without elaborating.

The two-hour crisis talks at the presidential palace brought together Essebsi, representatives of political parties, the powerful UGTT trade union and the UTICA employers' federation.

A Tunisian woman holds up a yellow card and a loaf of bread during a protest against price hikes and austerity measures in the capital Tunis

The protests draw on anger over price and tax increases included in this year's budget that took effect on 1 January.

Demonstrations in several cities had turned into looting and vandalism last week, with protesters clashing with police who fired tear gas.

It is noted that all the protests that have been ongoing since Monday, January 8, arrested more than 600 people, about half of them in the last day.

Amnesty International reported one protester has died during the unrest in the northern Africa nation.

More than 200 young people rallied in Tunis following a call from the Fech Nestannew (What Are We Waiting For?) campaign for a major protest against the measures imposed at the start of the year.

"Tunisian security forces must refrain from using excessive force and end their use of intimidation tactics against peaceful demonstrators", the watchdog said.

While Tunisia is held up by some as the only democratic success story among countries swept up in the Arab Spring, it has had nine governments since Ben Ali's overthrow, none of which have been able to resolve deep-rooted economic problems.

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