Fallen Tunisian autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali dies

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Ben Ali and his wife Leila mark the 20th anniversary of Ben Ali's presidency, in Rades, outside Tunis in 2007. (AP)
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Tunisia's President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali waves to supporters after he took the oath at the national assembly in Tunis November 12, 2009. (Reuters)
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Ben Ali welcomes Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat prior to their talks in Tunis in 2001. (AP)
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President Bush shakes hands with Ben Ali in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington in 2004. (AP)
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Former Tunisian President Habib Ben Ali Bourguiba (R) shakes hands with his then prime minister Ben Ali (L) in 1986. (AFP)
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Ben Ali waves to the crowd upon arrival in Rades stadium where he delivered his speech on the 50th anniversary of independence of Tunisia from France in 2006. (AFP)
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Ben Ali (C) is greeted by France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak as he arrives at the EU-Mediterranean summit in Paris, July 13, 2008. (Reuters)
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Ben Ali poses for an official picture in front of the Tunisian flag in 1988. (AFP)
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Ben Ali meets Libya's leader Muammar Qaddafi as they pose for a family photo during the third European Union-Africa summit in Tripoli in 2010. (Reuters)
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Children welcome Tunisian President Ben Ali in 2008 as he arrives to a meeting marking the 21st anniversary of his accent to power in Tunis. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2019

Fallen Tunisian autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali dies

  • Ben Ali was the first of several Arab leaders to be driven from power during regional uprisings
  • Ben Ali ruled the North African country from 1987 until 2011

TUNIS: Former Tunisian president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, the first leader to be toppled by the Arab Spring revolts, died on Thursday in Saudi Arabia.
"We had confirmation of his death 30 minutes ago," Tunisia's foreign ministry said, without giving further details.
The 83-year-old's lawyer, Mounir Ben Salha, confirmed the news, citing family members and Ben Ali's doctor.
Ben Ali, who ruled his North African country from 1987 until 2011, was viewed by some as a bulwark against extremism, but faced criticism for muzzling the opposition and his reluctance to embrace democracy.
Eventually, growing frustration over unemployment and high prices snapped.
In late 2010, after a young trader died when he set himself on fire, protests erupted across the country and sparked a deadly clampdown.
Ben Ali fled Tunisia on Jan. 14, 2011 and sought exile in Saudi Arabia.
His rapid departure sparked a string of similar uprisings across the region, toppling Egyptian and Libyan strongmen Hosni Mubarak and Moamer Qaddafi.
The turmoil triggered what was to become Syria's devastating eight-year war.
In mid-2012, Ben Ali was sentenced in absentia to life in jail for his role in the deaths of protesters during the uprising that ousted him.
Ben Ali is survived by six children; three daughters by a first marriage and two daughters and a son by Leila Trabelsi.


Erdogan hit by more arms bans as pressure grows over Syria invasion

Updated 16 October 2019

Erdogan hit by more arms bans as pressure grows over Syria invasion

  • United States threatens more sanctions
  • Britain, Spain and Sweden joined Germany and France in suspending military exports

ANKARA: Three more countries halted arms sales to Turkey on Tuesday as pressure mounted on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the Turkish invasion of northeast Syria.

Britain, Spain and Sweden joined Germany and France in suspending military exports, and the US threatened Ankara with more sanctions unless Erdogan halts the offensive.

“We will keep our defense exports to Turkey under very careful and continual review,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. “No further export licenses to Turkey for items which might be used in military operations in Syria will be granted while we conduct that review.”

Spain, a major arms exporter to Turkey, urged Erdogan to “put an end to this military operation” because it endangered regional stability, increased the number of refugees and threatened Syria’s territorial integrity.

“In coordination with its EU partners, Spain will deny new export licenses for military equipment that can be used in the operation in Syria,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Sweden also halted exports of military combat equipment. “Two permits that have been active have now been recalled,” it said.

BACKGROUND

Vice President Mike Pence will hold talks with Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday, and the UN Security Council will discuss the invasion.

Erdogan’s assault against Kurdish forces, launched last week, has prompted a chorus of international condemnation. “Many NATO allies are very critical and are condemning the military operation in northern Syria,” said Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO, the Western military alliance of which Turkey is a member.

Russia’s presidential envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, said Turkey had no right to deploy its forces in Syria permanently, and Moscow had not approved the operation.

US President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions on Turkey on Monday, and on Tuesday the US said more sanctions would follow unless the invasion was halted.

“The plan is to continue the pressure on Turkey as we evaluate our chances to return the relationship to normal, a major element of that return to normal would be a cease-fire,” a senior administration official said. “And by cease-fire what I mean is forces on the ground stop moving on the ground.”

Vice President Mike Pence will hold talks with Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday, and the UN Security Council will discuss the invasion.