Algerian founding father urges reform

Protesters demonstrate in Algiers, Algeria (on 12 Feb 2011) Opposition parties have been staging pro-democracy rallies in the capital

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The former leader of Algeria's ruling party has urged the president to respond to unrest across the Arab world by changing his government.

Abdelhamid Mehri said radical change was needed as Algeria approaches 50 years of independence from France.

In a letter addressed to President Abdulaziz Bouteflika, he said the government was no longer capable of addressing the nation's challenges.

Mr Mehri, 84, said that change must come soon.

"The voices calling for a peaceful change of this system are many. This change cannot be postponed any longer," he said.

A former leader of the country's ruling FLN party and one of the founders of the Algerian state, Mr Mehri played a pivotal role in Algeria's bloody struggle for independence.

He helped negotiate the Evian Treaty, ending 130 years of French colonial rule in Algeria.

Inspired by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, opposition parties and human rights groups have been staging pro-democracy rallies in the capital.

They say they will march every Saturday until democratic change is introduced.

There has been a heavy police presence at the rallies, and reports of dozens of arrests.

Meanwhile, Algeria's Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia has said the government will lift a 19-year state of emergency by the end of the month.

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