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Tunisian minister suspends ex-ruling party

TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisia's interior minister on Sunday suspended all activities of the country's former ruling party amid the most serious protests since the country's autocratic president fled into exile less than a month ago.

Fahrat Rajhi suspended all meetings of the Democratic Constitutional Rally, known as the RCD, and ordered all party offices or meeting places it owns closed — ahead of a demand to dissolve the party, a ministry statement said.

The RCD embodied the policies of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14, ending 23 years in power after a month of nationwide antigovernment protests.

The party became a key instrument by which Ben Ali maintained power and by which corruption spread. Should the RCD be dissolved, it would be among the most sweeping moves since the departure of Ben Ali.

The official TAP news agency, which carried the statement, said the measure was taken because of the "extreme urgency" of the situation, a reference to deadly weekend protests around Tunisia, and to "preserve the higher interests of the nation."

The announcement came hours after crowds pillaged then burned a police station in the northwestern city of Kef. The army responded by encircling local government buildings to protect them, but tension was high.

On Saturday, Kef police officers fired at an angry crowd of 1,000 people attacking the police station with stones and firebombs, killing at least two people and injuring 17, the Interior Ministry has said. The crowd had tried to break into the station after the police chief "mishandled" a citizen, TAP said.

Witnesses said the chief had slapped a woman.

The local police chief, Khaled Ghazouani, was placed under arrest, according to the ministry.

Protests have also erupted in other corners of the North African country, which is being run by a caretaker government before presidential elections to be held in six to seven months.

Tunisian minister suspends ex-ruling party 02/06/11 [Last modified: Sunday, February 6, 2011 9:47pm]
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