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Tunisian Islamist party calls for dialogue to resolve crisis

·2 min read

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS, July 27 (Reuters) - Tunisia's biggest party, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, on Tuesday called for political dialogue to get the country out of crisis after it accused the president of a coup when he dismissed the prime minister and suspended parliament.

The statement came as Ennhahda issued instructions to its supporters through party branches not to resume a sit-in outside parliament and to avoid protests, in a reversal of an earlier call by its leader Rached Ghannouchi to take to the streets.

Though some senior party members wanted to retain a street presence, its leaders decided to avoid any further escalation and allow a period of calm, two Ennahda officials said earlier on Tuesday.

The area outside the parliament building, the site on Monday of confrontations between hundreds of supporters of Ennahda and Saied, was empty on Tuesday morning. Ennahda's supporters left the parliament on Monday evening and have not returned. Tunisia is facing its biggest crisis since the 2011 revolution that introduced democracy. Saied said his actions were in line with a constitutional clause allowing extraordinary measures during an emergency.

It raised the spectre of major street confrontations or a slide back from the democratic gains won a decade ago.

Ennahda and the next three largest parties in parliament have all denounced the move as a coup.

A Tunisian political source said neighbouring Algeria had pushed both Saied and his opponents to step back from any confrontation to avoid further destabilisation or the intervention of any external forces.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Saied late on Monday and said he had urged him to "to adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights".

Saied has yet to announce a new interim prime minister and has said he will replace the defence and justice ministers. He has not said whether the other cabinet ministers will remain in place.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara, writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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