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Social unrest eases in Tunisia after Cabinet is announced

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • State Department lifts travel warning, issues alert
  • U.S. citizens urged to avoid all demonstrations and exercise caution
  • 12 new Cabinet members were announced Thursday
  • Former president fled Tunisia on January 14 after weeks of protests

(CNN) -- The United States lifted a travel warning for Tunisia on Friday as social unrest decreases and public order returns, according to the U.S. State Department.

A new alert strongly urges U.S. citizens to a voice all demonstrations and advises American travelers to "defer to non-essential" movement and exercise caution while in Tunisia.

This travel alert replaces the travel warning that had been in effect since January 16, the statement said.

In the statement, officials remind citizens that although demonstrations have diminished, spontaneous and unpredictable events continue to occur; for that reason, they are requesting that Americans in Tunisia adhere to a 10 p.m. to 4 a.m curfew for the greater Tunis metropolitan area until further notice.

Travelers should heed directions given by uniformed security officials and are encouraged to always carry a copy of their passport as proof of nationality and identity, the State Department said.

On Thursday, Tunisia's unity government weathered another shakeup as the foreign minister resigned and Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced the composition of a Cabinet that included 12 new ministers.

Nine ministers stayed in office from an interim government announced last week, Ghannouchi said in a televised address.

Ghannouchi ousted key ministers belonging to former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally, known by its French acronym, RCD.

The move came amid calls from street protesters for the ouster of old-guard officials.

The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), the main force behind the current protests against the interim government, endorsed the new Cabinet, which is expected to boost its credibility among protesters.

Ben Ali fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia on January 14 after weeks of citizen protests against poor living conditions, high unemployment, government corruption and repression.

The United Nations says the protests have left more than 100 dead.

U.S. diplomatic cables released since November by the website WikiLeaks painted a scathing portrait of Ben Ali and his relatives, describing the extended family as a "quasi-mafia" that pushed businesses for a slice of any venture they were involved in.

Tunisian authorities announced Wednesday that they had issued an arrest warrant for the ex-leader, his wife and several of their relatives. Tunisian Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi said they face a variety of charges, such as maintaining and exporting foreign currency illegally, carrying weapons and ammunition without licenses, and inciting armed violence between Tunisians.

Some of Ben Ali's relatives have been arrested, and others are still at large, he said in remarks carried by the state news agency, Tunis Afrique Presse.

The grass-roots uprising that toppled Ben Ali has emboldened people in Egypt, Yemen and Algeria to take their complaints to the streets.

But several analysts have said Tunisia's unique combination of repression, corruption and high unemployment make it unlikely that the revolt that ousted Ben Ali will be duplicated elsewhere in the region.

Journalist Zied Mhirsi contributed to this report.