Tunisia on Monday rejected proposals by Italy to deploy armed forces there to help stem a flow of illegal immigrants after more than 3,000 Tunisians arrived by boat on an Italian island in recent days.
Tunisia's TAP news agency quoted a government spokesman as saying the North African nation, which deposed its president last month in a landmark uprising, "categorically rejects any interference in its internal affairs or offense against its sovereignty."
On Sunday, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni offered to send Italian armed forces to prevent what he called an "unprecedented biblical exodus" from Tunisia to the small Italian island of Lampedusa, just off the coast of Sicily, New York Times reports.
Tunisia's foreign minister, Ahmed Ounaies, resigned. The 75-year-old retired diplomat joined the reshuffled transition government formed on January 27 by Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi.
In the first government of national unity announced on January 17 he had been appointed secretary of state at the foreign ministry.
He had barely resumed work since returning from a visit to France on February 4, diplomatic sources said, according to Telegraph.co.uk.