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Police Fire Shots To Disperse Tunisia Protest

Police used violence to disperse an earlier demonstration in Tunis on January 18.
TUNIS -- Tunisian police today fired shots in the air to disperse hundreds of protesters demanding that ministers associated with the rule of ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali quit the government.

Nearly a week after Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia following street protests, former political allies including the prime minister are trying to coax opposition figures into a national unity government.

Earlier in the day, ministers in the interim government resigned from Ben Ali's former ruling party (RCD), and a junior minister quit the cabinet after coming under pressure over his ties to Ben Ali's rule.

The authorities say at least 78 people were killed in the unrest that brought down Ben Ali and that the cost in damage and lost business is estimated at $2 billion.

A Tunisian prosecutor, meanwhile, has opened an investigation into the overseas assets of the ousted president and his family.

Switzerland said it had agreed to freeze any assets on its territory belonging to Ben Ali to help work up a possible criminal case over alleged stolen funds.

compiled from agency reports