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ALGERIA: As unrest spreads, government promises end to 19-year 'emergency'

February 3, 2011 | 12:08 pm

Egypte

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika plans to repeal the 19-year-old state of emergency in the Arab country "in the very near future," the state-controlled news agency reported Thursday.

The report of the official APS news service also quoted Bouteflika as telling his Cabinet that political and economic reforms would be undertaken to tackle severe unemployment and rising food prices.

The easing of goverment controls imposed a generation ago as purported safeguards against the spread of Islamic fundamentalism appeared to have been spurred by the wave of protests across the Middle East in demand of more political freedom and an end to authoritarian rule. Algeria has been among the countries afflicted with sporadic rioting and unrest.

By scrapping some of his emergency powers, Bouteflika may also be attempting to counter a mass protest planned in the capital, Algiers, on Feb. 12.

Discontent, especially among jobless youths, has roiled the Middle East for months. Demonstrators drove out the long-ruling regime in Tunisia last month and now confront Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak with the most defiant challenge to his leadership in the 30 years he has been in power.

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--Carol J. Williams

Image: Clashes continued around Cairo's Tahrir Square on Thursday afternoon. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

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