Tunisians Force President Ben Ali To Flee
Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has stepped down after 23 years in power as protests over economic issues snowballed into rallies against him. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has taken over as interim president, and a state of emergency has been declared. Mr Ben Ali and his family are said to have left Tunisia, and are now looking for a place of asylum. Unconfirmed reports suggest his plane has arrived in the Saudi city of Jeddah. Earlier, French media said President Nicolas Sarkozy had rejected a request for the aircraft to land in France. Dozens of people have died in recent weeks as unrest has swept the country and security forces have cracked down on demonstrations over unemployment, food price rises and corruption. The protests started after an unemployed graduate set himself on fire when police tried to prevent him from selling vegetables without a permit. He died a few weeks later. The protests came to a head on Friday as thousands of people gathered outside the interior ministry, a symbol of the regime, and many climbed onto its roof. Police responded with volleys of tear-gas grenades. President Ben Ali, who had already promised to step down in 2014, dissolved his government and the country's parliament, and declared a state of emergency. Then, in a televised address on Friday afternoon, the prime minister announced that he would be taking over from President Ben Ali. Mr Ghannouchi, 69, a former finance minister who has been prime minister since 1999, promised to "respect the law and to carry out the political, economic and social reforms that have been announced".