Amid Deadly Riots, Tunisian President Says He'll Leave

... but not until 2014
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 13, 2011 4:43 PM CST
Supporters of Tunisia President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali demonstrate in Tunis Thursday.   (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
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(Newser) – Tunisia's autocratic president, struggling to contain deadly riots that have destabilized his authority, made sweeping pledges for political and media freedom and said he will leave the presidency—but not until his term ends in 2014. Facing the worst unrest in his 23 years in power, an unusually contrite President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ordered prices on sugar, milk, and bread slashed. Crowds spilled into the streets after his speech, many cheering his price cuts but some questioning his commitment to real change.

His bold pledges appeared aimed at quelling public anger while allowing him to cling to power in Tunisia, a country long cherished by European tourists for its Mediterranean beaches and its stability, and seen as an ally against terrorism. It remained to be seen whether Ben Ali's speech will mean an end to violence that has left at least 23 dead and perhaps dozens more. Unions plan a general strike tomorrow in Tunis and some other regions.

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