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Former Tunisian President Reported in Grave Condition

VOA News February 17, 2011

News reports say former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali is in a grave condition in a hospital in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Ben Ali, 74, fled to the Red Sea city of Jeddah after being ousted in a popular revolt in Tunisia in January.

The French news agency, citing a source, said Mr. Ben Ali suffered a stroke.

He had ruled Tunisia for more than two decades before anti-government protests sparked by unemployment and high food prices led to his ouster last month.

In 2009, Mr. Ben Ali won a fifth term as president in a landslide election. However, he ran against three low-profile challengers who were never considered serious contenders.

During his tenure as president, Mr. Ben Ali guided the North African nation toward adopting largely moderate political and economic policies. However, international rights groups complained that his government stifled political opposition and restricted liberties.

Mr. Ben Ali studied in France and the United States before returning to Tunisia, where he moved up the ranks in government. In 1987, he toppled (then) President Habib Bourguiba, who had appointed him as prime minister.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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