Cradle of Arab Spring celebrates first anniversary - The festive mood in Sidi Bouzid was tempered somewhat, however, by reminders that democratic change in Tunisia has yet to ease poverty and high unemployment - bread and butter issues that preoccupy many Tunisians and have triggered rioting.
The fuse for "Arab Spring" uprisings was lit when a jobless unemployed university graduate in Sidi Bouzid set himself on fire in despair at police who had confiscated his unlicensed fruit and vegetable cart. He died later in hospital.
Mohamed Bouazizi's death took the lid off simmering anger about poverty, joblessness, corruption and repression. Protests erupted across Tunisia, forcing autocratic President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country less than a month later.
Tunisia's revolution inspired other Arabs to rise up against entrenched authoritarian rulers. They were overthrown in Egypt and Libya. Yemen's leader has stepped aside for a reformist transition while Syria's president faces a spreading insurgency.
In Sidi Bouzid, tens of thousands of people rallied joyfully in the central square, dancing to the rhythms of popular songs despite cold weather, and flags and photographs of Tunisians killed in the uprising decorated the streets.
A ceremony was held, attended by the new president and his prime minister, to unveil a giant status of Bouazizi, who has become a national hero in the North African country.
"It's a day of joy; Sidi Bouzid has long suffered from neglect and today it has become the capital of the world," said a dancing young man who identified himself as Emad.
"On December 17 last year, the Arab world began a new page of history, this is really a source of pride," he said.
Celebrations will run through the weekend with some leading international figures on hand, including the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Yemeni opposition activist Tawakkol Karman.
But Manoubia Bouazizi, Mohammed's mother, conveyed the underlying concerns of many by urging Tunisian authorities to parlay the revolution into a better quality of life for the population, especially the young.
"(My son) set himself alight to grant liberty to Tunisia and the Arab world ... I ask government officials to pay attention to poor areas and provide jobs for young people," she said.
Troops assault Egypt protesters, clashes kill 9 - Soldiers beat demonstrators with batons in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday in a second day of clashes that have killed nine people and wounded more than 300, marring the first free election most Egyptians can remember.
Protesters fled into side streets to escape the troops in riot gear, who grabbed people and battered them repeatedly even after they had been beaten to the ground, a Reuters journalist said. Shots were fired in the air.
Soldiers pulled down protester tents and set them on fire, local television footage showed.
In footage filmed by Reuters one soldier in a line of charging troops drew a pistol and fired a shot at retreating protesters.
The violence highlights tensions in Egypt 10 months after a popular revolt toppled President Hosni Mubarak.
The army generals who replaced him have angered some Egyptians by seeming reluctant to give up power. Others back the military as a force for badly needed stability during a difficult transition to democracy.
The army assault on Saturday followed skirmishes between protesters and troops. A fire destroyed archives in a building next to Tahrir, including historic documents dating back over two centuries.
An official blamed petrol bombs for starting the blaze, the state news agency MENA reported.
An army official said in a statement troops targeted thugs not protesters after shots were fired at soldiers and petrol bombs set the archive building ablaze, MENA reported.
The bloodshed follows unrest in which 42 people were killed in the week before November 28, the start of a phased parliamentary poll that is empowering Islamist parties repressed during the 30-year Mubarak era, when elections were routinely rigged.
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