New suicide protest in Tunisia

An unemployed Tunisian was in critical condition on Tuesday after setting himself on fire in protest at economic conditions in the country, a union official said.

Aymen Ben Belgacem, 21, attempted suicide in El-Guettar in the Gafsa region of southern Tunisia on Saturday because of his "deplorable social conditions," union official Ammar Amrousia told AFP by telephone.

A similar protest by Mohamed Bouazizi, a impoverished graduate in the central city of Sidi Bouzid, who died after setting himself on fire in December, triggered massive protests that led to the overthrow of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14.

Belgacem was being treated for burns at a hospital in the suburbs of Tunis, the union official added.

Unemployment and poverty are the main challenges facing the new interim government of Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi.

The IMF has singled out high unemployment, 14 percent for the general population but double that for those under 25, as a major problem.

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