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Uprising

Tunisian President Flees to Saudi Arabia

It's a potent mixture of hope and violence in the streets of Tunisia after the country's president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, fled for Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi took over, promising respect for the protesters who want an end to 24 years of authoritarian rule. Ghannouchi's assurance that police would stop shooting protesters sent Tunisians into the streets by the thousands, where they found police armed with tear gas and clubs. Ben Ali's departure, however, marks the first time popular revolt has removed an Arab dictator, a display that could have profound effects on countries across the Middle East. “What happened here is going to affect the whole Arab world,” one protester said. Ben Alis promised Tunisia will hold parliamentary elections in six months—a major step for a country whose current president seized power in a bloodless coup.

January 15, 2011 2:09 AM