x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Minister insists there will be 'no domino effect' in Algeria

Foreign minister Mourad Medelci says anti-government protests that toppled rulers in Tunisia and Egypt will not spread to Algeria.

MADRID // Anti-government protests that toppled rulers in Tunisia and Egypt will not spread to Algeria as part of a "domino effect" across the region, the Algerian foreign minister, Mourad Medelci, said in a newspaper interview.

"The domino effect is an invention on the part of the media, including that of Algeria which is very free. I don't think it applies to Algeria. Algeria is not Egypt or Tunisia," he told the daily Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Riot police clashed with anti-government protesters on Saturday who tried to rally in May 1 Square in the centre of Algiers.

Several hundred managed to get into the square even though police blockaded adjacent streets with armoured vehicles.

"According to reliable police data, there were no more than 500 people, to which you can add a few transients. It was demonstrated that the conveners are a minority," said Medelci.

In a protest a week ago around 2,000 demonstrators succeeded in gathering in the square but were prevented from starting a planned four-kilometre march to Martyrs Square.

Protests have also been reported over the past week in Libya, sandwiched between Egypt and Tunisia, as well as in Bahrain, Yemen and Iran.

Mr Medelci said that what was happening at Algeria's doors was "worrying".

"There is instability. We have seen how this mobilisation thanks to the Internet can gain large proportions," he said.

Earlier this month the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, said a state of emergency in force in Algeria since 1992 would be lifted in the near future, as demanded by the opposition.

Mr Medelci refused to specify when the state of emergency would be lifted. "It can be lifted when it has borne all its fruits," he said.

Mr Medelci was in Madrid for talks with his Spanish counterpart, Trinidad Jimenez.