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Tunisia needs strong unions and a strong government, says minister

Tunisia's Minister of Transport, Abdel Karim Al-Harouni, has said that the new government which started work on Monday 26 December will work smoothly on spreading justice and freedom in the country, strengthening its Arab and Islamic identity. Personal and general freedoms, which the revolution struggled to protect and develop, will not be diminished, he said.

Speaking to Quds Press, Mr Al-Harouni said that the newly-elected government will work to serve the country's interests: "We were resisting dictatorship and tyranny as part of the revolution. And now we are working to solidify the gains of the revolution, the values of freedom of expression, protest and assembly. These gains, including the right to protest and sit in, cannot be reversed."

He added, "If the demands of the sit-ins are legitimate, we will deal with them and try our best to respond to them; if they are not, we will engage in dialogue with the protesters and try to persuade them. And if there are people who want to abuse their rights [of protest and assembly] to harm the revolution and its gains, the state will protect its citizens' security, because we don't want Tunisia to be weak and helpless."

Al-Harouni said that they consider the arson attack against the Phosphate company in Gafsa to be a national loss and not a form of protest, because the protesters destroyed an entire business and deprived the country and its people of important phosphate revenues.

"We will deal with legitimate demands through dialogue, and we will deal with those who want the revolution to fail … with justice and the law," said the minister. He stressed that the new government has no intention of framing a political system which violates or goes against democratic values.

He also ruled out any direct government conflict with the Labour Union: "The current government is a government elected by the people; it is not interested in getting into a confrontation with the Labour or other Unions."

"The role of the Union is to protect workers and defend their rights, and the role of the government is to respond to and fulfill workers' demands," added Al-Harouni, noting that Tunisia needs a strong Labour Union and a strong government.


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