Wanted Tunisia Salafist Warns Ennahda against Bowing to Secularists

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A wanted Tunisian Salafist leader has urged the ruling Islamists against making concessions to secular parties, warning that to do so would be "political suicide," a U.S.-based monitoring group said on Friday.

"We stress this to the Ennahda movement... that conceding and prostrating in such a decisive moment in our country's history will be political suicide," said Abu Iyadh, who heads the radical Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia.

Abu Iyadh, who is accused of orchestrating a deadly attack on the U.S. embassy in Tunis last September, also urged all Islamic groups in Tunisia to unite "to prevent the country from plunging into chaos."

"The harm of (making political concessions) will not just rebound on it but also on Islam as a religion. We stress that we will never hand over the country to the boys of France and the West, even if that costs us our lives," the SITE Monitoring Service quoted him as saying.

His comments were posted on the Internet on Wednesday, the day that secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid was shot dead outside his home by a lone gunman, sparking violent protests and a major political crisis.

In response, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali of Ennahda, the Islamist party that heads Tunisia's coalition government, announced plans to form a non-partisan government of technocrats.

The proposal, which Jebali reiterated on Friday after Belaid's funeral, was largely welcomed by Ennahda's secular allies in the coalition, and by opposition parties and civil society groups.

But it has been rejected by Ennahda's parliamentary bloc, laying bare deep divisions within the party, heightening political uncertainty and fueling tensions between liberals and Islamists in a once proudly secular Muslim nation.

Ennahda was squarely blamed by Belaid's family for his murder, accusations it vigorously denied.

Since the mass uprising two years ago, Tunisia has witnessed a wave of violence blamed on radical Salafists.

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