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28.05.2019 Algeria

Algeria army chief calls for 'mutual concessions'

By AFP
Algeria's armed forces chief Ahmed Gaid Salah (centre) has emerged as a de facto strongman since long-serving president Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 in the face of massive protests..  By RYAD KRAMDI (AFP/File)
MAY 28, 2019 ALGERIA
Algeria's armed forces chief Ahmed Gaid Salah (centre) has emerged as a de facto strongman since long-serving president Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 in the face of massive protests.. By RYAD KRAMDI (AFP/File)

Algeria's armed forces chief on Tuesday called for "mutual concessions" between the country's interim leaders and protesters demanding broader changes nearly two months after long-serving president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned.

General Ahmed Gaid Salah said the priority was to "move towards a productive dialogue that will help our country" out of the crisis and to ensure elections are held as soon as possible.

Gaid Salah, who has emerged as a de facto strongman since Bouteflika quit on April 2 in the face of massive protests, has repeatedly called for a constitutional solution through a July 4 presidential election.

But only two little-known figures submitted their candidacies on time for the disputed poll, raising doubts about the interim rulers' plans to stage it.

The election is strongly opposed by protesters who reject any vote held under authorities they say are tarnished by corruption from the rule of Bouteflika.

They want regime figures including Gaid Salah and interim president Abdelkader Bensalah to step down ahead of any poll, and demand new independent institutions to oversee voting.

"Establishing dialogue means the willingness of all to listen to each other... and a sincere desire for the need to find appropriate solutions without delay," Gaid Salah said, quoted by the defence ministry.

The general called for constructive dialogue in which "mutual concessions" can be agreed and "differences are overcome, or at least gaps between contradictory points of view are reduced".

Gaid Salah warned against a drawn-out transition and referred to the country's 1990s civil war as he urged Algerians to "learn from previous experiences and past events".

Algeria has been rocked by months of protests since the ailing Bouteflika announced in February that he would run for a fifth term.

He quit office but protesters have kept up mass demonstrations calling for an overhaul of the "system" and departure of key Bouteflika-era figures.

Under the constitution, Bensalah has 90 days to organise a presidential election from the date of his appointment on April 9.

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