More than 110 people have been killed in clashes between security forces
and rioters. On Jan. 15, at least 50 inmates were said to have died in two
prison fires as another 1,000 inmates were released by authorities.
Military units have been battling rioters in several Tunisian cities.
Officials said the military was summoned to stop a rebellion in a prison in
the Tunisian coastal city of Mahdia.
Authorities were trying to restore calm amid what appeared to be a power
struggle in Tunisia, an ally of the United States and regarded as the most
modern state in North Africa. Mebazaa, 77, appeared on national television
and called for a new government that would include the opposition.
Later, however, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, a longtime ally of
Bin Ali, said he would head the next government in the North African state.
But the chairman of Tunisia's constitutional court said elections would be
in 60 days and that Mebazaa was the interim successor.
"I call on Tunisians of all political persuasions and from all regions
to demonstrate patriotism and unity," Ghannouchi said.
Bin Ali fled Tunis hours after the military was withdrawn from the
capital. Earlier, the opposition rejected Bin Ali's offer to halt live fire
by security forces, create 300,000 jobs by 2013 and not run again for
The exiled 74-year-old president was said to have first sought asylum in
France, which rejected Bin Ali's appeal. Instead, the French government
froze all Tunisian assets.
"France has taken the necessary steps to ensure suspicious financial
movements concerning Tunisian assets in France are blocked
administratively," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement.
"France is prepared to meet any request for help to ensure the democratic
process takes place in indisputable fashion."
Saudi Arabia has acknowledged that Bin Ali arrived in the port city of
Jedda. An official Saudi statement suggested that the ousted president would
allowed to stay permanently in the Gulf Cooperation Council kingdom.
"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands totally alongside the brotherly
Tunisian people and hopes that they will close ranks in order to overcome
this difficult period in their history," a Saudi palace statement said on
Arab opposition groups, including Al Qaida Organization in the Islamic
Maghreb, hailed the end of the Bin Ali era. They said the fall of the
Tunisian president could spark similar efforts in such countries as Algeria,
Jordan and GCC states.
"I can name some three to four other countries where people are starving
and their rulers are stealing public wealth," Yusef Al Qaradawi, regarded as
the most prominent Sunni cleric and based in Qatar, said.