Algeria’s interim president proposes talks without ‘state’ role

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Algeria’s interim President Abdelkader Bensalah pledged in a speech on Wednesday to hold talks without the involvement of the state or the military to pave the way for elections.

“This dialogue … will be led freely and with total transparency by national independent figures who have credibility and who are not linked to any party,” he said in a televised speech.

“The state in all its components, including the military, will not be party to this dialogue and will remain neutral throughout,” he added.

The president urged all sides to drop “unrealistic requirements that are likely to prolong the current situation and drag our country into a … constitutional vacuum.”

“The presidential elections are the only way to democracy,” he said. “It [the elections] remains the only democratic, realistic and reasonable solution.”

His speech comes just days before his interim mandate expires on July 9.

Algeriahas been hit by months ofproteststhat initially culminated in ailing PresidentAbdelaziz Bouteflikastepping down in early April after tens of thousands opposed his bid for a fifth term.

Army Chief Ahmed Gaid Salah has emerged as a key powerbroker since Bouteflika was forced out.

Gaid Salah was an ally of the ailing president, but as pressure from demonstrators mounted he ultimately called for the long-time leader’s impeachment.

Politicians and businessmen close to Bouteflika – including former Prime Ministers Abdelmalek Sellal and Ahmed Ouyahia – have beenarrestedin a corruption probe.

But protesters have called for Gaid Salah himself to step down, along with other top figures they argue are tainted by their allegiance to Bouteflika during his 20-year rule.

They also want independent institutions to be established before any election.

An already delayed presidential election was postponed again early last month from a planned date of July 4, after the only two candidates who had submitted bids were disqualified. No new date has been set for the vote.

Protesters have demanded the establishment of transitional bodies, free of Bouteflika-era officials, to push through reforms in the run-up to presidential elections.

Some in the opposition say any corruption probes should be the responsibility of a future government, fearing that regime factions could use them to settle scores.

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