Tunisia's new government seeks stronger economy, security

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TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia's Parliament has approved Youssef Chahed as prime minister along with a new government focused on boosting the economy and fighting terrorism.

Chahed's Cabinet was confirmed Friday night in a 167-22 vote with five abstentions. The government has more women and younger politicians in its mix, but it retains previous ministers in the key posts of defense, interior and foreign affairs.

The 41-year-old Chahed, a member of the president's Nida Tounes party, was appointed after last month's collapse of the previous government. Since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia has struggled with soaring unemployment and a slump in tourism following last year's Islamic extremist attacks on a beach resort and museum that killed some 60 people.

Reducing deficits and reviving tourism pose major challenges for the new government, while the production of a key export, phosphate, has shrunk 60 percent since the Arab Spring.

The new finance minister, 55-year-old state bank director Lamia Zribi, is one of eight women in the Cabinet.

Chahed pledged to fight corruption and ordered all ministers to declare their assets within two weeks.

The prime minister said security efforts would be fully funded and the government would focus on cutting off extremists' own sources of finance.

Critics warned that the new government, with 40 ministers and junior ministers, would be too big and wasteful at a time of budget austerity, increasing risks that the country could become dependent on support from the International Monetary Fund.

Chahed called for national unity after a rocky transition to democracy and said citizens people must make sacrifices to improve the economy.

"We must mobilize ourselves to save Tunisia so that democracy succeeds, and to give new hope to the youth and all Tunisians," he said to a standing ovation from lawmakers.

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