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Published: Friday December 13, 2013 MYT 7:20:01 AM
Updated: Friday December 13, 2013 MYT 7:20:01 AM

Tunisia's Islamists and opposition reach deal on premier

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's ruling Islamists and opposition parties reached a deal on Thursday to name a new prime minister to lead a caretaker administration until elections aimed at ending months of crisis.

The deal on a new premier clears the way for the current government to step down later this month and end turmoil that has threatened to upset Tunisia's transition to full democracy three years after its "Arab Spring" uprising.

Under a previous accord brokered by Tunisia's powerful UGTT labour movement, moderate Islamist party Ennahda has agreed to resign once the sides decide on a caretaker cabinet, finish a new constitution and set a date for elections.

"There is an agreement, which will be presented tomorrow," Hussein Abassi, head of the UGTT, told reporters after weeks of negotiations.

Political leaders did not give any further details. But former finance ministers and central bankers have topped the list of potential candidates for the post leading a technocrat, non-political cabinet meant to end months of deadlock.

Tunisia's labour movement had set a deadline of December 14 for the two sides to name a prime minister for a caretaker administration to govern until new elections.

Nearly three years after a despairing Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire, triggering a revolt that ousted autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia is close to finishing its transition to full democracy.

There have been months of wrangling with political parties split over the role of Islam in Tunisia, the country's economy is faltering and Islamist militants have carried out a series of attacks.

Worries from Tunisia's international lenders about the country's deficit and the assassinations of two opposition leaders by Islamist militants earlier this year have increased pressure to reach an accord.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Andrew Roche and Jim Loney)

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