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Algerian Emergency Law to End

Lisa Bryant | Paris February 14, 2011

Algeria's foreign minister says the country's nearly 20-year emergency law will be lifted shortly, but he plays down recent anti-government protests, saying the country would not follow the path of Tunisia or Egypt.

In an interview on France's Europe One radio Monday, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci discounted the scope and the impact of anti-government protests that took place this past weekend in Algiers and in other key cities in the North African country.

Medelci says the protests were supported by a minority of Algerians and he doubts they will gain strength in the coming weeks.

Although numbers differ, news reports estimate as many as 2,000 to 3,000 people braved up to 30,000 riot police in downtown Algiers, Saturday, to call for the ouster of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Several hundred more also demonstrated in cities around the country and youths clashed with police on Sunday in the eastern city, Annaba. Protest organizers now say they will hold anti-government rallies every Saturday.

Bouteflika has recently promised a number of changes, including lifting the country's 20-year-old state of emergency.

Medelci says he cannot say precisely when the emergency law will be lifted, but that it will take place within days.

Oil-rich Algeria has many of the same ingredients that fanned protests toppling the presidents of Egypt and neighboring Tunisia - high unemployment, a large population of discontented youth and a gap between rich and poor.

Protests also broke out in Algeria in January following a hike in prices for basic goods. But some analysts note the rallies have failed to attract the massive numbers witnessed in Cairo and Tunis.

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