Tunisia PM Says Committed to Government of Technocrats

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Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said Friday that he stuck by his decision to form of new government of technocrats, despite a section of his ruling Islamist party opposing the plan, official media reported.

"I stick by my decision to form a government of technocrats and I would not need the support of the constituent assembly" to do so, Jebali was quoted as saying by the TAP news agency.

"The composition of this government is nearly ready," he added.

Jebali's comments follow the funeral of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid, whose assassination on Wednesday sparked a major political crisis, with the premier announcing his intention to form a new administration that day.

The proposal was largely welcomed by the secular allies of Jebali's Islamist Ennahda party, which heads Tunisia's ruling coalition.

But it was rejected by Ennahda's parliamentary bloc, laying bare deep divisions within the party and fueling uncertainty as political infighting delays a deal on a new constitution and fresh elections due later this year.

"We have rejected this proposal... The head of the government took the decision without consulting the (ruling) coalition or the Ennahda movement," said Sahbi Atig, Ennahda's leader in the national assembly, which it dominates.

Top Ennahda official Abdelhamid Jelassi also criticized Jebali's decision.

"As far as we are concerned, our country still needs a government coalition based on the results of the elections on October 23, 2011" that Ennahda won, said Jelassi.

When he first announced the plan on Wednesday, Jebali did not specify that he was dissolving the existing government, nor did he set a date for the reshuffle, which would have to be confirmed by the national constituent assembly.

On Thursday, the presidency said it supported the planned administration of technocrats, but insisted that it be formed with the support of parliament.

"The presidency of the republic wishes to say that all changes to the ruling power must take place within the framework of the law represented by the National Constituent Assembly, which remains the primary source of power," presidency spokesman Adnene Manser told reporters.

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