TUNIS (Reuters) - President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali warned on Tuesday that violent protests were unacceptable and would hit jobs and tourism after protests by graduates demanding work and what they called an end to corruption.
Protests are rare in Tunisia, which has been run for 23 years by President Ben Ali and works closely with Western governments to combat al Qaeda militants, but have been gathering force in recent weeks.
The Tunis protest on Monday followed the deadly shooting by police of a jobless graduate in Bouziane, south of Tunis, last Friday. Around 1,000 people took part in the demonstration, called by independent trade union activists.
“The use of violence in the streets by a minority of extremists against the interests of their country is not acceptable,” President Ben Ali said in a speech broadcast by Tunisian television, saying justice would prevail.
“It will have a negative impact on creating jobs,” the president added. “It will discourage investors and tourists (to visit) which will hit jobs.”
Clashes broke out earlier this month in the town of Sidi Bouzid after a man committed suicide in a protest about unemployment. The protests later spread to several neighbouring cities such as Sousse, Sfax and Meknassi.
The North African country attracts millions of holiday makers mainly from Europe and Arab countries every year.
Tunisia is a regional focus for financial institutions since it has announced a plan to complete current account convertibility of its dinar currency over the 2010-2012 period.
Tunisian police used batons on Monday to disperse the demonstration in Tunis, the first time a recent spate of protests has reached the capital.
The Tunisian government accused its opponents on Monday of manipulating the clashes at the weekend between police and young people in Sidi Bouzid to discredit the authorities.
Two witnesses told Reuters that rioting resumed late on Monday in Sidi Bouzid. A least one protester was killed during the clashes and several were injured.
Tunisia remains relatively prosperous compared to African peers but several international right groups say its government crushes dissent, an accusation it denies.