Middle East

Algeria's state of emergency to be lifted 'imminently'

Anti-government demonstration in Algiers (22 January 2011)
Image caption Algeria has recently witnessed demonstrations for greater freedoms

Algeria's government has adopted a draft order to lift the country's 19-year-old state of emergency, the official APS news agency reports.

It says the measure will come into force after its publication in the official gazette, which is expected "imminently". It did not elaborate.

Ending the emergency powers is one of the key demands of the opposition.

Algeria - like other countries in the region - has recently witnessed demonstrations for greater freedoms.

There have also been riots over rising food prices.

Saturday rallies

The Algerian cabinet approved the draft order at a meeting on Tuesday.

The instruction will come into effect as soon as it is officially published, which could take about a week, the BBC's Chloe Arnold in Algiers reports.

The move is seen as a concession to opposition parties and human rights activists, who have been staging marches calling for democracy and greater freedoms, our correspondent says.

Image caption President Bouteflika said protests in the capital Algiers would still be banned

Inspired by popular revolts across the Arab world, the opposition says its supporters will rally every Saturday in the capital until there has been a change in the regime.

Once the state of emergency is lifted, the military will only have limited powers to get involved with domestic security issues, our correspondent adds.

But she says that - in practical terms - it is unlikely to change ordinary life in Algeria.

Earlier this month, President President Abdelaziz Bouteflika pledged that the state of emergency would be lifted in the "very near future". But he said that rallies in the capital would still be banned.

Mr Bouteflika said the state of emergency had been imposed "for the only purposes of the fight against terrorism, and it is this reason only which has justified maintaining it on a legal basis".

Public demonstrations are currently banned in Algeria which endured a brutal conflict with Islamists in the 1990s.

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