29 Dec 2010

Rioters will be punished - president

12:17 pm on 29 December 2010

President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia has condemned violent protests over unemployment as "not acceptable" and has vowed to punish rioters.

He said the demonstrations, which have been held mainly by graduates, would hit tourism and jobs.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Tunis on Monday to demand jobs and an end to corruption.

AFP news agency reports there have been nine days of riots and demonstrations against unemployment and poor living conditions in Sidi Bouzid.

On Friday, one protester was shot dead during violent clashes in the central town of Menzel Bouzaiene.

in a speech broadcast on Tunisian television, Mr Ben Ali said:

"The use of violence in the streets by a minority of extremists against the interests of their country is not acceptable.

"It will have a negative impact on creating jobs. It will discourage investors and tourists which will hit jobs."

He added that the law would be "applied in all firmness" to punish anyone found to be instigating violence and disorder.

However, the BBC reports he also said that he would seek to find a solution to the problem of unemployment and to improve the standard of living.

Demonstrations were sparked by the attempted suicide earlier this month of a jobless graduate, Mohammed Bouazizi, 26, who sold fruit and vegetables illegally in Sidi Bouzid because he could not find a job.

According to the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights, he doused himself in petrol and set himself alight when police confiscated his produce, telling him he did not have the necessary permit.

Later, another young man electrocuted himself in the same town, saying he was fed up with being unemployed.