A man died after setting himself on fire at a government building in Algeria, echoing the self-immolation that triggered the popular revolt that toppled the leader of neighbouring Tunisia, state radio in the capital of Algiers, reported yesterday.
Mohsen Bouterfif doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire on Thursday after a meeting with the mayor of the small city of Boukhadra who was unable to provide him a job and a house, the daily El Khabar newspaper said. He died on Saturday of his burns.
His death sparked a protest by about 100 young men, in a country where several towns, including Algiers, have experienced riots in recent weeks over unemployment and a sharp rise in the prices of staple foods.
The demonstrations in Tunisia, sparked by the suicide of a university graduate prevented by police from selling fruit and vegetables to make a living, have since escalated into a popular movement against unemployment, poverty and the alleged corruption of the ruling elite in other North African and Middle Eastern countries.
Yesterday, as Tunisia's new leadership was in talks to form a coalition government and regain control, political leaders in the region and around the world appealed for calm.
The UAE urged Tunisians to unite and restore order. "The UAE urges the Tunisian people in this delicate moment to stick together, to maintain national unity and to thwart any attempt to undermine Tunisia or its security and stability," said a cabinet statement carried by the state news agency WAM.
Kuwait expressed respect for the Tunisian people's choice after President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country on Friday.
"The state of Kuwait respects the choices of the brotherly people of Tunisia … and expresses hope that security and stability will be restored," Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah said in a statement late Saturday.
The statement, cited by the official KUNA news agency, also expressed hope "that the Tunisian people will overcome the delicate situation to achieve stability and arrive at a national consensus to preserve superior national interests and avert chaos."
Iran said yesterday it was "worried" about the situation in Tunisia, with which the Islamic republic has good ties.
"We have very good ties with this nation, and we hope they (the Tunisian people) achieve their main demands as soon as possible in peace, security and stability," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Fars news agency. "We hope the Muslim Tunisian nation's demands are fulfilled through peaceful and non-violent means."
Iran's Parliament Speaker, Ali Larijani, urged Tunisians to be wary of countries that may try to take advantage of the unrest.
"The behaviour of America and some western countries is ridiculous … They are the root cause of dictatorship and pressure in Tunisia and now they pretend to sympathise with the Tunisian nation."
In Libya, leader Mummar Qadafi said he was "pained" by what was happening in Tunisia.
"Tunisia now lives in fear … Families could be raided and slaughtered in their bedrooms and the citizens in the street killed as if it was the Bolshevik or the American revolution.
"What is this for? To change Zine El Abidine? Hasn't he told you he would step down after three years? Be patient for three years and your son stays alive."
The world's largest pan-Islamic body, the Saudi-based Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said yesterday the strife in Tunisia was an "internal matter" while urging people to "protect public and private properties."
It expressed hope, however, that Tunisia would show "the solidarity and unity of its people and their aspirations for enhancing democracy and good governance."
There was no official statement on Sunday from the government of Saudi Arabia, where Mr Ben Ali and members of his family have been in seclusion since arriving early Saturday morning. A government statement later that day said Mr Ben Ali was allowed refuge in the kingdom "out of concern for the exceptional circumstances facing the brotherly Tunisian people and in support of the security and stability of their country."
Meanwhile, in Jordan, more than a 1,000 citizens staged a sit in outside parliament in Amman to protest price hikes, poverty and unemployment.
Recent government measures to curb commodity and fuel prices last week failed to defuse the growing street protests and demands for the government of Samir Rifai to step down.
Carrying national flags, the Muslim Brotherhood's green flags, demonstrators denounced the government's economic policies and called for change.
"I am here to protest against the price hikes. Citizens are fed up and can hardly make ends meet," said Mohammad Abu Rajab, a 49-year-old retired science teacher from the Palestinian refugee camp of Baqaa. " We want a government that feels with people."
In Yemen, hundreds of students and human rights activists took to the streets in the capital, Sana'a, chanting: "Liberty's Tunisia, Sana'a salutes you a thousand times." Police vehicles drove ahead of the protesters as they walked from the university to the Tunisian embassy, while anti-riot police created a barricade to prevent the protesters from getting close to the embassy.
There was no immediate reaction from the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
In power for the past 32 years, Mr Saleh was re-elected in September 2006 to a seven-year mandate. A draft amendment of the constitution, under discussion in parliament despite opposition protests, could further stretch the president's tenure by allowing a life-long mandate.
Meanwhile, in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that regional political instability shows the Jewish state must seek ironclad security clauses in any peace treaty with the Palestinians.
"The lesson is that we have to stick to the principles of peace and security in any agreement that we make," Mr Netanyahu said.
Silvan Shalom, Israel's Tunisian-born deputy prime minister, said the unrest in the North African country "explodes the myth that this dispute is the root of all the instability in the Middle East."
* Mohammed al Qadhi reported from Sana'a and Suha al Ma'ayeh from Amman, with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press and Reuters