Tunisia's president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country yesterday after sacking his government and declaring a state of emergency, as a month of violent protests that escalated to pitched street battles appeared to have ended his iron-fisted 23-year rule. As Mr Ben Ali, 74, fled the capital, Tunis, the Prime Minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, addressed the nation, saying he had taken over and vowing to restore stability after the biggest protests the government had faced in decades. "Since the President is temporarily unable to exercise his duties, it has been decided that the Prime Minister will exercise temporarily these duties," he said.