Violence-Scarred Tunisia Announces New Government

Tunisia's prime minister announced a national unity government on Monday, hoping to quell simmering unrest following the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali amid huge street protests.

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, a longtime ally of Ben Ali, and several top ministers retained their posts in the shake-up -- and at least one top opposition leader was expected to join the government.

The move comes amid continued unrest in the North African country after Ben Ali fled the North African country on Friday -- 23 years after he first took power.

More than 78 protesters and other civilians have died in the unrest that has swept the country for a month. Interior Minister Ahmed Friaa says 94 civilians have been injured and that members of security forces have also been killed. 

Ghannouchi, who has been premier since 1999 and has kept his post throughout the upheaval, said the current ministers of defense, interior and foreign affairs would keep their posts.

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Three opposition figures, including Nejib Chebbi, a founder of the opposition PDP party, will take up posts in the government -- a breakthrough in a country that the autocratic Ben Ali led for more than two decades.

Many opponents of Ben Ali's rule have taken to the streets to express their hopes that the new government would not include any remnants of his iron-fisted regime.

"We continue to urge calm and an end to violence in Tunisia," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said on Monday. "We welcome several of the reforms that were announced along with the news of the formation of a more inclusive and representative interim government, including a commitment to investigate corruption, promote free media, free political prisoners, ensure accountability and lift the ban on human rights group's activities."

Earlier Monday, security forces fired tear gas to repel angry demonstrators ahead of the announcement of the new government. Some protesters demanded Ben Ali's former cronies be locked out.

Friaa said the Tunisian economy lost 3 billion dinars (US$2 billion) amid the troubles.

He told reporters Monday that 85 police stations have been damaged, along with 13 town halls, 43 banks, 11 factories and 66 stores or shopping centers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report