TUNIS, July 28 (Reuters) – France urged Tunisia on Wednesday to name a new prime minister and cabinet to replace the government removed by President Kais Saied when he froze parliament and assumed governing authority in a move decried as a coup by his opponents.

A decade after ending autocratic rule through a popular uprising, Tunisia faces the sternest test yet to its democratic system and Western countries that have applauded its political transition have expressed concern.

Saied, who says his actions are constitutional but has yet to set out his next steps, has been urged by the United States to stick to democratic principles. He met security chiefs on Wednesday, the presidency said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told his Tunisian counterpart Othman Jerandi that it was paramount that Tunisia quickly names a new prime minister and a cabinet, the French Foreign Ministry said.

Backed by the army, Saied’s actions included suspending parliament for 30 days. Opponents including the Islamist Ennahda party, parliament’s biggest, have accused him of a power grab.

The head of Tunisia’s journalists’ syndicate Mahdi Jlassi said a foreign reporter had been briefly detained by police on Wednesday while reporting in a district of the capital.

On Monday the U.S. State Department had said it was “particularly troubled” by police having raided the Al Jazeera news bureau in Tunis and urged “scrupulous respect for freedom of expression and other civil rights”.

Saied’s moves followed protests by Tunisians who are fed up with years of economic malaise and political paralysis since the 2011 uprising that ignited the Arab Spring.

Saied, an independent elected in 2019, has said he acted to save the country from corruption and plots to sow civil strife.

His move followed months of deadlock and disputes pitting him against Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and a fragmented parliament, as Tunisia descended into an economic crisis exacerbated by one of Africa’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks.

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