Algeria braced for further protests

Algeria braced for further protests

Algerians are planning an anti-government protest in the capital, Algiers, a week after thousands of demonstrators were confronted by 30,000 riot police at the same venue, Al Jazeera reported.

The protest, scheduled to take place on Saturday around May 1 Square, the site of last week's rally, has been organised by the National Co-ordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD).

The month-old umbrella group is made up of the political opposition, the Algerian human rights league and trade unions.

Mourad Medelci, Algeria's foreign minister, said the authorities had not received a formal request to authorise the protest in Algiers, where demonstrations have long been banned.

"To my knowledge there was no request to march," Medelci said, speaking in Madrid, the Spanish capital.

"Perhaps there was a will to do so but we are an administration which functions in a transparent manner and we respond when we are solicited."

The CNCD wants the immediate end of the government of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria's president, citing the same problems of high unemployment, housing and soaring costs that inspired uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Another anti-government protest is scheduled to take place in the Mediterranean city of Oran, where - contrary to a week ago - local officials changed course and authorised it.

Rising food prices led to five days of riots in Algeria last month that left three people dead.

Bouteflika has promised to lift a 19-year state of emergency by month's end in a nod to the growing mass of disgruntled citizens.

Posters against the demonstration sprouted on the walls of the capital on Friday night. "Don't march on my tranquility and my freedom," said one.

Another, unsigned, appealed to residents of May 1 Square to fly an Algerian flag from their balconies "as a sign of love for their country".

A group of youngsters there said they did not know the possible author but one said "it's certainly the people in power".

Attacks on the government have widened to include criticism from Abdelhamid Mehri, a senior former leader of the Algerian regime, who on Thursday called for sweeping political changes in the north African country in an open letter to Bouteflika.

Mehri, a former secretary general of the ruling National Liberation Front and government minister, accused the regime of being "incapable of solving the thorny problems of our country ... and even less so of preparing efficiently for the challenges of the future, which are even more arduous and serious".

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