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Algeria sees state of emergency over in days

By on February 14, 2011

The 19-year-old state of emergency in Algeria will end within days, Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said on Monday, brushing off concerns that recent protests in the country could escalate as in Tunisia and Egypt.

A state of emergency has been in force in Algeria since 1992 and the government has come under pressure from opponents, inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, to ditch emergency laws.

Several hundred protesters took to the streets in the capital Algiers on Saturday and opposition groups said they would demonstrate every weekend until the government is changed.

“In the coming days, we will talk about (the state of emergency) as if it was a thing of the past,” Medelci told the French radio station Europe 1 in an interview.

“That means that in Algeria we will have a return to a state of law that allows complete freedom of expression, within the limits of the law,” he said.

Recent protests had been organised by minority groups with limited support, the minister said, adding that there was no risk of a government overthrow as in neighbouring Tunisia.

However, he suggested the government may be willing to make concessions, saying: “The decision to change the government lies with the president who will assess the possibility, as he has done in the past, to make adjustments, as he has done in the past.”

“Algeria is not Tunisia or Egypt,” he added.

The resignation on Friday of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and last month’s overthrow of Tunisia’s leader, have led many to ask which country could be next in the Arab world.

Widespread unrest in Algeria could have implications for the world economy since it is a major oil and gas exporter, but many analysts have said an Egyptian-style revolt is unlikely because the government can use its energy wealth to placate protesters.

Discontent with joblessness, poor housing conditions and high food prices sparked rioting in early January across the country, but there is so far no sign that this is coalescing into a political movement.


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