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In Tunisia PM-designate starts talks on forming government

On Friday Chahed is set to meet representatives of his own party, Nidaa Tounes, which was founded by President Beji Caid Essebsi.

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Tunisia PM-designate starts talks on forming government play

Tunisia's newly appointed prime minister-delegate Youssef Chahed poses for photographers after being appointed by the Tunisian president at Carthage Palace in Carthage, on August 3, 2016 

(AFP/File Fethi Belaid)

Tunisia's prime minister-designate Youssef Chahed began talks on Thursday aimed at creating a unity government to tackle major economic and security challenges.

The 40-year-old former local affairs minister was nominated on Wednesday and given 30 days to form a cabinet.

On Thursday he met officials from three minor parties, said a source close to him.

Chahed was then set to meet officials from the Islamist Ennahda party that dominates parliament and from the Nobel Peace Prize-winning UGTT union, said the source, who did not wish to be named.

"Consultations will continue in the coming days," he said.

On Friday Chahed is set to meet representatives of his own party, Nidaa Tounes, which was founded by President Beji Caid Essebsi.

If his cabinet wins the backing of parliament, Chahed will become the North African country's youngest premier since it won independence from France in 1956.

He will also be Tunisia's seventh prime minister in less than six years since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Chahed said on Wednesday that his government's priorities would to fight terrorism, corruption and unemployment.

He pledged to include more women in his cabinet than in previous governments.

His nomination came days after the government of Habib Essid lost a vote of confidence after just 18 months in office.

Essid's cabinet included Nidaa Tounes, Ennahda and two other groups. It came under heavy criticism for failing to tackle a jihadist insurgency and an economic crisis.

In June, Essebsi said he would support the formation of a new unity government. Essid said he would be willing to quit, but later refused to step down without a vote of confidence.

Chahed's nomination also follows a split in his own party, Nidaa Tounes, that led to it losing its parliamentary majority.

Many Tunisians welcomed the nomination of a comparatively young prime minister -- especially compared with other leaders since Tunisia's youth-led revolution.

Essebsi is 89 years old, while Essid is 67.

But others criticised the appointment of a former minister in a government they see as having failed to address the country's challenges.

They also slammed his links with the president -- whose son's presence in Nidaa Tounes is already controversial.

Discontent over nepotism under Ben Ali helped fuel the revolt that ousted him.

Chahed denied Wednesday that he had any direct family ties to the president, saying he had only started to work with Essebsi after the 2011 revolution.

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