Reuters International

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi speaks during the congress of the Ennahda Movement in Tunis, Tunisia May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi - RTSF8BR

(reuters_tickers)

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi on Thursday called for negotiations among political parties, unions and independents to form a new unity government to help advance economic reforms in an attempt to calm social tensions.

Essebsi's call came as Tunisia's current ruling coalition is struggling to create more growth and jobs after a series of militant attacks battered the North African state's tourism industry and economy.

"It is time for a change, and for audacity," Essebsi said in a televised interview. "We need a more courageous alternative that can apply the law and fight against unemployment."

He said he would meet with the powerful UGTT president to invite him into a new unity government. The UGTT has been one of the main opponents of some of the government's austerity programmes and had recently threatened to call strikes.

Any negotiations to form a new government will need the current cabinet to resign and a parliament approval. But it would also take time to find consensus among secular, Islamist and left-wing parties and the powerful UGTT.

Tunisia has emerged as a political model for democratic change since its 2011 uprising against Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, but economic reforms demanded by its lenders to tackle high unemployment and frustration among its young have lagged behind.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; writing Patrick Markey)

reuters_tickers

 Reuters International