Tunisian president says there is 'no turning back'


FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in Tunis, Tunisia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's President Kais Saied said on Thursday there was "no turning back" from his decision to freeze parliament and assume executive power, moves his opponents have branded a coup.

Speaking in a video published by his office, Saied also rejected calls for talks over the crisis, saying "there is no dialogue except with the honest" and that no dialogue was possible with "cancer cells".

The biggest party in parliament, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, which has been the most vocal opponent of Saied's moves, had called for dialogue in a statement earlier on Thursday.

Some 11 days after his intervention, Saied has not named a new prime minister, announced any steps to end the emergency or declared his longer-term intentions.

The powerful labour union, as well as both the United States and France, have called on him to quickly appoint a new government. The union is preparing a roadmap to end the crisis that it says it will present to Saied.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez and ranking member Jim Risch said on Thursday they were deeply concerned by the situation.

"President Saied must recommit to the democratic principles that underpin U.S.-Tunisia relations, and the military must observe its role in a constitutional democracy," they said in a joint statement.

Ousted Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi appeared in public for the first time on Thursday since he was dismissed. He was shown in pictures published by the anti-corruption watchdog that it said were taken on Thursday at its office.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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