World Bulletin/News Desk
The first session of Tunisia's national dialogue kicked off on Friday in the presence of opposition parties, which confirmed their attendance at the talks only moments earlier.
The first dialogue session, held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional Justice, brought together representatives from a wide range of the country's political parties.
Only minutes before talks were set to begin, the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) said it would take part after the government formally pledged to resign within three weeks of the launch of the dialogue.
Speaking to reporters before entering the hall that will host the first session, Ahmed Najib al-Shabi of the Republican Party said that reaching agreement on an independent figure to head up the incoming government would top the meeting's agenda.
Friday's session, he added, would represent "the start of the countdown of the four-week dialogue."
Zilani Bouzeid of the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties told Anadolu Agency that the session would tackle means of implementing a transitional roadmap, particularly in terms of naming a caretaker premier and making preparations for upcoming elections.
The session was attended by a host of top political leaders, including ruling Islamist Ennahda Party head Rached Ghannouchi, secretary-general of main opposition party Nida Tounes Taieb Baccouche, and Ziad Lakhdhar of the Popular Front.
Earlier Friday, government media liaison Abdelsalam Zbidi said that a document sent to the powerful UGTT labor union – in which the government pledged to resign – was in line with the roadmap, which also stipulates the implementation of certain "milestones."
These "milestones" include finalizing a draft constitution, setting a date for elections and forming a body to oversee polling.
The document, Zbidi told Anadolu Agency, aimed to "render the national dialogue a success and confirm the government's keenness in this regard."
The developments came two days after Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh stressed that the government remained committed to the transitional roadmap, which calls for the Ennahda Party to relinquish authority to a caretaker government of technocrats.
Tunisia has faced a severe political crisis for the last three months, triggered by the assassination of opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi.
Hours before Laarayedh's remarks, protesters had taken to the streets in capital Tunis to demand the government's resignation amid a heavy police presence around Tunis Boulevard, home of the 2011 demonstrations that led to the downfall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's autocratic regime.
Mediators, including the UGTT, charted a roadmap – unveiled last month – that requires the government to step down as part of national dialogue efforts.
Laarayedh agreed to this condition, but refused to let the government fall before work on the constitution was finalized and the road to elections cleared.
Brahmi was shot dead outside his home near Tunis on July 25, which led to a general strike and days of protests that paralyzed the capital.
At the time, security officials said Brahmi had been assassinated with the same weapons used to kill another opposition figure, Chokri Belaid, in February.Last Mod: 26 Ekim 2013, 11:06