World sees chance for democracy in Tunisia
Western leaders called Saturday for democracy in Tunisia following the ousting of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, while other Arab countries were warned their turn could be next.
France, one of Ben Ali's closest allies, said the Tunisian people had "expressed their democratic will," in a statement from President Nicolas Sarkozy's office.
"France, which has so many links of friendship with Tunisia, offers it its determined support," the statement said.
"France calls for calm and an end to violence. It calls for the organisation of free elections in the shortest time possible."
But a government spokesman added that relatives of Ben Ali should not seek refuge in France after it was revealed that a group of them were holed up at Disneyland Paris.
Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday as protests sparked originally by unemployment and food price rises intensified with dozens of deaths at the hands of the police, and an embarrassed France refused to offer him asylum.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the country's decision to hold elections and appealed for a "rapid return to law and order."
Canada's Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said he hoped the polls would give all Tunisians a "voice in building a new government committed to democracy, human rights and the rule of law."
European parliament speaker Jerzy Buzek, said, "It is clear the time for profound change has come in Tunisia."
"....the long-term stability of a country rests on full civil and political rights, political pluralism based on a true multi-party system, and on the rule of law," he said.
"This is the only way to a both prosperous and stable democracy; this is the way forward."
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called for "calm, moderation and dialogue," and said Rome hoped the Tunisian people would take "the road of democracy and peaceful coexistence."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed "real democracy" in Tunisia, coupled with respect for human rights and freedom of the press and assembly.
"I appeal to you to use this deep break in Tunisia's history as a new departure," she told the new authorities in Tunis.
Speaker of parliament Foued Mebazaa was sworn in as acting president Saturday and pledged that all Tunisians "without exception" will be able to take part in national politics.
Under the constitution parliamentary elections have to take place within 60 days.
The Russian foreign ministry said it was "in the interest of all Tunisians" to restore normality and stability as quickly as possible and avoid confrontation.
"We see the re-establishment of peace and calm, through democratic dialogue and in accordance with the constitution, as an urgent task," it added.
The Arab League, of which Tunisia is a member, called on "all political forces, and representatives of Tunisian society and officials, to be united for the good of the Tunisian people and to achieve civil peace."
The league urged all to "work together for the return of calm and security and stability," and to reach "a national consensus to bring the country out of this crisis while guaranteeing the respect of the will of the Tunisian people."
Analysts said Ben Ali's ousting after weeks of violent protests is a stark warning to authoritarian regimes across the Arab world, whose people have long voiced similar grievances.
While Egypt urged Tunisians to "stand together" to "avoid descending the country into chaos," demonstrators celebrated outside the Tunisian embassy in central Cairo.
"Listen to the Tunisians, it's your turn Egyptians!", they chanted, surrounded by heavy security.
Radical Palestinians said Tunisia's people were an inspiration to the rest of the Arab world, though the main umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation was more cautious.
In Amman, 50 Jordanian trade unionists held a sit-in outside the closed Tunisian embassy, shouting "Tunisia's revolution will spread."
They also carried Algerian flags because, as one of them stated, "the first spark is lit."
Recent violent riots in Algeria over soaring food prices left five dead, hundreds wounded and more than 1,000 in jail. The government had no reaction Saturday to Ben Ali's departure, but the press hailed his fall and called it a warning to Tunisia's north African neighbour.
Saudi Arabia said it had taken in Ben Ali and his family "out of concern for the exceptional circumstances facing the brotherly Tunisian people and in support of the security and stability of their country."
"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands totally alongside the brotherly Tunisian people and hopes that they will close ranks in order to overcome this difficult period in their history," a palace statement added.
On Friday US President Barack Obama applauded "the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people," and urged Tunisian authorities to uphold promises of free and fair elections.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Friday for a "democratic outcome" to Tunisia's crisis, with "full respect for freedom of expression and association."
The European Union also voiced "support and recognition to the Tunisian people and their democratic aspirations, which should be achieved in a peaceful way."
© 2011 AFP