Friday, 4 February 2011

Algeria: State of emergency to be lifted in the "very near future"

Algerian media has quoted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as saying that the state of emergency will be lifted in the "very near future". It is yet to emerge, however, whether the emergency laws, imposed in 1992, will be repealed.

Bouteflika's announcement follows demands by opposition groups for greater freedoms. A co-organiser of the protests, Fodil Boumala, said: "We are in the middle of a meeting to work out how to respond. Personally, I hope very much that this is not just another ruse by the authorities ... I think that instead of getting to the root of the problem the authorities are just playing for time. They want to cut the ground out from the opposition by saying: 'You asked for the state of emergency to be lifted and now it is'."

After keeping out of the public eye, Bouteflika made the announcement at a meeting with government ministers in Algiers, adding that protests, currently banned in Algeria, will be permited to take place everywhere except in the country's capital. He also said state of emergency had been imposed "for the only purposes of the fight against terrorism, and it is this reason only which has justified maintaining it on a legal basis".

Bouteflika also reportedly urged the cabinet to adopt measures to promote emplouyment opportunities and encourage a more liberal media. The announcement follows growing pressure from the country's opposition groups, some of whom have been motivated by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, Wall Street Journal , AP, AFP

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

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