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20 April 2024

Tunisia PM tells Ben Ali not to return

By Reuters

Tunisia's ousted leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali told Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi he was considering returning from exile but Ghannouchi told him that was impossible, a government minister told Reuters.

Najib Chebbi, an opposition leader who is now regional development minister in a coalition government, said the exchange happened in a telephone conversation after Ben Ali, toppled by weeks of protests, fled to Saudi Arabia last week.

Ghannouchi had described to the media having a telephone conversation with Ben Ali, but he did not give details about what was discussed.

"I hope Mohamed Ghannouchi will forgive me if I say something he did not say (in public) but I will say something for the first time," Chebbi told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"The prime minister received a telephone call from someone who described himself as Emir Ahmed and when Ghannouchi answered he found Ben Ali on the line."

"Ben Ali said he was thinking of coming back to Tunisia but Ghannouchi replied to him: 'It is out of the question. It is impossible'," Chebbi said.