Tunisia’s Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, who served under the ousted former President Ben Ali, has pledged to leave politics after planned elections.
Demonstrators have been demanding that figures from the previous regime do not stay in power.
In an interview, Ghannouchi said like other Tunisians he too was afraid under Ben Ali’s rule.
He also promised reforms and said anti-democratic laws would be abolished – citing as examples the ban on certain political parties, and an anti-terrorist law under which hundreds of young people have been thrown in jail for consulting Islamist websites.
Amid extraordinary scenes in Tunis policemen, who barely a week ago were crushing demonstrations, stood arm in arm with protesters.
Policeman Naoufel Dzirisaid said he and his colleagues had been forced to clamp down. “We only fear God,” he said, “but we are asking forgiveness from the people of Tunisia. We want forgiveness… because we love them. I am from Tunisia too.”
Tunisia’s interim cabinet has promised to release hundreds of political prisoners.
The first have been freed amid emotional scenes.
The prime minister has pledged that victims of the former regime will be compensated.