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Tunisia’s Ruling Islamists to Step Down Peacefully

Tunisia’s Islamist government agreed on Saturday to negotiate with their secular opponents to form a caretaker administration, then resign and prepare for new elections.

The talks could end weeks of crisis for the Islamist-led coalition government and the secular opposition parties that are threatening to end the fledgling Tunisian democracy where the Arab Spring began in 2011.

Tunisia’s powerful labor union proposed to the ruling Islamist Ennahda party to agree to three weeks of negotiations, following which it would resign and be replaced by an independent transitional administration, setting a date for parliamentary and presidential elections.

“The dialogue will start on Monday or Tuesday,” Lotfi Zitoun, an Ennahda party official, told VOA. “Ennahda has accepted the plan without conditions to get the country out of the political crisis.”

The union, UGTT, confirmed the agreement and called on both sides to set a time to begin talks next week.

Since the dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in 2011, following street protests against him, the Tunisian state has been struggling with the political role of Islam. The opposition accuses Ennahda of imposing an Islamist agenda on the largely secular country.

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