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    Tunisia's new Foreign Minister, M. Habib Chatti, said on Wednesday (16 January) that his country's?

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    Tunisia's new Foreign Minister, M. Habib Chatti, said on Wednesday (16 January) that his country's proposed merger with Libya would not take place against the wishes of other North African countries. He specifically mentioned Algeria and Morocco whose leaders have criticised last Saturday's surprise announcement of the proposed merger.

    M. Chatti said "We do not want the merger to come about in a spirit of disunity".

    The announcement on Saturday came after talks between President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia and Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The two leaders signed a document cutlining the proposed merger when they met to make the announcement on the holiday island of Djerba.

    Asked if Tunisia was having second thoughts about the plan, M. Chatti said that there was no going back on the principle of union with Libya. However, he refused to be drawn about a possible date for a referendum on the proposal in Tunisia. The referendum was to have taken place on Friday, but this has been postponed for at least four months. The postponement was announced on Tuesday (15 January) by the Tunisian Prime Minister, M. Hedi Novira. Within hours of his statement, he was having talks with the Libyan Anterior Minister, Major Khouildi Hamidi, and other Libyan officials.

    Major Hamidi, who is a member of the Supreme Libyan Revolutionary Command Council, had flown to Tunis on Monday. After meeting M. Nouira, Major Hamidi also had talks with M. Chatti, and the Interior Minister of Tunisia, M. Tahar Belkhodja.

    M. Chatti took over as Foreign Minister from M. Mohamed Masmoudi, who was believed to have been one of the architects of the proposed merger M. Masmoudi's political future remains uncertain.

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