(Adds government accepting resignation, interim replacement)
By Tarek Amara
TUNIS, July 27 Tunisia's Finance Minister
Hussein Dimassi resigned on Friday over differences with the
Islamist-led government, adding to concerns about the fate of a
political transition in the north African country, which saw the
first of the Arab Spring revolts.
The official TAP news agency made the announcement without
giving reasons for Dimassi's resignation, which occurred less
than a month after the president sacked the central bank
governor and the administrative reform minister resigned - both
over differences with the government.
A statement sent by Dimassi's office to Reuters cited
differences with the government over financial compensation to
be paid to some 20,000 mostly Islamist former political
prisoners of the ousted Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's government.
"Differences between (Dimassi) and the government about
spending and the sacking of the central bank governor were the
main reasons for his resignation," it said.
The government, in a statement read out on state television,
accepted Dimassi's resignation and announced the appointment of
his deputy Slim Besbes as an interim replacement. The government
attributed Dimassi's resignation to differences over "economic
policy", without elaborating.
Tunisia, struggling to emerge from recession, has held a
steady course on inflation, interest rates and exchange rates
even in the turmoil that followed Ben Ali's ousting, but
Dimassi's resignation seems to indicate that holding that line
may not be easy.
Dimassi had issues with what he called "slippages" by a
government he accused of being more concerned about winning
votes than about the health of public finances.
"The draft law for the compensation of beneficiaries of the
general amnesty is the most serious of all, it was the straw
that broke the camel's back," said the statement from Dimassi's
"It will result in a very heavy expenditure for the state's
budget considering the high number of beneficiaries and the
amount of the compensation," it said.
Tunisian newspapers said the plan may cost as much as 750
million dinars ($470 million).
Dimassi's resignation is set to give fresh ammunition to the
secular opposition as a further sign of growing differences
within the ruling coalition and may plunge Tunisia - the first
Arab country to oust its leader and hold free elections as Arab
Spring uprisings spread around the region last year - deeper
($1 = 1.6109 Tunisian dinars)
(Writing by Souhail Karam; Editing by Susan Fenton and Ralph