New self-immolation in central Tunisia town
TUNIS - A Tunisian set himself alight Tuesday in a town where a self-immolation sparked protests that toppled the president and led to the regional uprising, a medical source said, as the UN chief visited.
The 33-year-old, Khaled Ezzafouri, suffered third degree burns after his protest in the central town of Sidi Bouzid and was transferred to a hospital in the eastern city of Sfax in a severe condition, the medical official said.
The reasons for his action were not clear.
The self-immolation in the same town in December of a fruit and vegetable seller set off protests that spread across the country, gaining momentum despite a deadly security forces crackdown that left around 200 people dead.
The uprising, which initially focused on unemployment and the costs of living, eventually saw authoritarian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali quit after 23 years in power on January 14.
Ben Ali's overthrow led to a wave of uprisings across the Arab world, including one that toppled Egypt's Hosni Mubarak on February 11 with others under way in countries including Libya, Yemen and Bahrain.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to meet the mother of the fruit seller, Mohammed Bouazizi, who died of his burns, in Tunis later on Tuesday.
The young man doused himself with petrol and set himself alight in the desolate farming town, which is about 260 kilometres (160 miles) south of the capital, to protest humiliation by police.
The UN chief arrived in Tunis late Monday, ahead of talks on Tuesday with the country's interim President Foued Mebazaa, who replaced Ben Ali, and other leaders.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited last week and pledged to help Tunisia create jobs and undertake reforms to keep the momentum behind the popular uprising that overthrew the autocratic president.
Unemployment was a major factor in the political unrest that erupted in Tunisia in December.
Tunisia's unemployment rate is officially 14 percent but the percentage of graduates without work is about double that.
Demonstrations continued in Tunisia after Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, including against the inclusion in the interim government of members of his former ruling party, the Rally for Constitutional Democracy (RCD).
After various reshuffles, the latest interim government is the first not to include members of the RDC, which has been dissolved.
The new authority is organising a vote on July 24, the first free elections since independence from France in 1956, to choose an assembly charged with drawing up a new constitution and building democracy.