Tunisia Issues Warrant for Ben Ali

Tunisia said Wednesday it had issued an international arrest warrant for ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who resigned this month amid protests against his regime and fled to Saudi Arabia.

The justice ministry said Ben Ali, his wife Leila Trabelsi and other members of his once all-powerful family were accused of illegally acquiring assets and transferring funds abroad during the veteran leader's 23-year regime.

Protesters are calling for figures linked to Ben Ali's regime to be removed from the new government and for his powerful RCD party to be disbanded.

U.S. President Barack Obama said in a speech on Tuesday that in Tunisia "the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator."

"And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people."

His comments came after thousands took to the streets in Egypt to call for an uprising against President Hosni Mubarak similar to the one in Tunisia.

Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman, the top-ranking U.S. official on the Middle East, meanwhile visited Tunis to press for democratic elections.

Other Arab states should tackle reforms after Tunisia's "example," he said.

"I think there's real potential now for a much warmer, mutually beneficial U.S.-Tunisian relationship that will emerge particularly after democratic elections," he told reporters on Tuesday after talks with four ministers.

Hundreds and sometimes thousands of protesters in Tunis have kept up daily and mostly peaceful protests against the government since last week.