US calls for restraint in Algerian protests

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WASHINGTON – The US on Sunday called on Algerian security forces to show “restraint” during anti-government protests inspired by events in Egypt and neighboring Tunisia. The State Department said the rights of the Algerian people “must be respected,” after demonstrators fed up with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s regime clashed with police Sunday, a day after 2,000 protesters were confronted by 30,000 riot police.
“We note the ongoing protests in Algeria, and call for restraint on the part of the security services,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement.
“We reaffirm our support for the universal rights of the Algerian people, including assembly and expression,” he added. “These rights apply on the internet. Moreover, these rights must be respected.”
The National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD), an umbrella group of Algerian opposition parties, civil society movements and unofficial unions, announced another major anti-government rally next weekend. The CNCD is demanding the immediate end to Bouteflika’s regime, citing the same problems of high unemployment, housing and soaring costs that inspired successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Like their counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt, the Algerian protesters have used Facebook and text messages to spread their call for change. Bouteflika, in power since 1999, has acted to curb price rises and promised political concessions, including pledging to lift a two-decade state of emergency, which the opposition says do not go far enough.
The 74-year-old leader was re-elected in 2004 and again in 2009 after revising the constitution to allow for an indefinite number of terms. Algerian human rights activists said 300 people had been arrested Saturday during demonstrations in three cities. But both the opposition and authorities later said all those arrested were subsequently freed.