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Islamists applaud popular uprising in Tunisia

Jan. 15, 2011 9:56 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 16, 2011 9:41 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Saturday expressed their respect for the Tunisian people, whose uprising led to the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ban Ali.

Ben Ali fled Tunisia on Friday with members of his family and his inner circle to escape deadly protests against his 23 years of authoritarian rule.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri applauded the Tunisian people's expression of their right to choose their leadership democratically without foreign intervention.

Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad congratulated the Tunisians on gaining their freedom "through blood, sacrifices and the expression of free will."

The Tunisian uprising was a message to hegemonic powers that a nation could restore its freedom, the Islamist movement said.

"It is also a message to Arab and Islamic countries to pay attention to the aspirations of their people that are rejecting hegemony and tyranny before it is too late."

Arab governments reacted cautiously to the news of Ben Ali's dramatic ouster.

The Arab League, based in Cairo, urged "all political forces, and representatives of Tunisian society and officials, to be united for the good of the Tunisian people and to achieve civil peace."

It called on all concerned to "work together for the return of calm and security and stability," and to reach "a national consensus to bring the country out of this crisis while guaranteeing the respect of the will of the Tunisian people."

Qatar, which enjoyed close diplomatic relations with Tunisia, said it "respects the will and choice of the Tunisian people," a foreign ministry spokesperson said.

Egypt was equally prudent, saying it "affirms its respect for the choices of the Tunisian people, and is confident that the wisdom of the Tunisian brothers will lead to restraint and will avoid descending the country into chaos."

Sudan welcomed what its foreign ministry called the "choice of the people" as an opportunity to achieve national liberty and prosperity."

But the street had a different tone.

Egyptians rushed to the Tunisian embassy in Cairo on Friday, joining a group of Tunisians to celebrate Ben Ali's departure, and urging their compatriots to follow the example.

"Listen to the Tunisians. It's your turn Egyptians," chanted demonstrators, surrounded by heavy security.

In Jordan, where the grumble of discontent poured onto the streets with thousands demonstrating against soaring commodity prices, about 50 trade unionists held a sit-in outside the Tunisian embassy in Amman chanting "The Tunisian Revolution will spread."

Iraqi MP Talal Zobaie, who leads the moderate faction of Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc, stressed that recent events constituted "a very clear warning to all the dictators and totalitarian regimes of the region, who have neglected their people and ignored their fundamental democratic rights."

In Kuwait, only the opposition Islamist MPs reacted, saluting "the courage of the Tunisian people."

Gulf power-house Saudi Arabia officially announced that it was hosting Ben Ali "out of concern for the exceptional circumstances facing the brotherly Tunisian people."

Meanwhile, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi is due to address the Tunisian people later on Saturday, the official JANA news agency said, adding that he had spoken to Ben Ali by telephone during the day.

In Algeria, where riots have also rocked the country, the daily El Watan said the "popular revolution in Tunisia was a beacon for the Arab world."

Lebanon's Al-Akhbar headlined on "the gift from Tunisia to Arabs: the end of a dictator."

AFP contributed to this report

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