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US supports Algerian protests against Bouteflika's fifth term bid

Ryad Kramdi, AFP | Student protest in Algiers on March 05, 2019.

The United States on Tuesday expressed support for the right of Algerians to protest, after thousands took to the streets to oppose President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term.

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The "US supports the Algerian people and their right to peacefully assemble," deputy State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told journalists.

"We're monitoring these protests that are happening in Algeria and we're going to continue to do that," Palladino said.

Protests have seen tens of thousands of people turn out in the North African country to demand that the 82-year-old president resign, as the country also struggles with economic stagnation.

Profile: Algeria's Abdelaziz Bouteflika

Police were deployed across the centre of the capital Tuesday where protests have been banned since 2001.

The TSA news website reported similar protests in Algeria's second and third cities, Oran and Constantine, as well as in other towns and cities.

"Hey Bouteflika, there won't be a fifth term," students chanted in central Algiers, an AFP reporter said.

Army pledge to 'secure' country

Algeria's army chief, who is close to Bouteflika and considered one of the country's most powerful figures, said on Tuesday that people will continue to enjoy "security and stability" of which the army "will remain the guarantor".

General Ahmed Gaid Salah also said in a speech at a military academy outside Algiers that the country's success "in eradicating terrorism... has displeased some parties who are upset to see Algeria stable and safe.

Bouteflika in Switzerland

Bouteflika promised on Sunday that if he wins the April election, he will organize a "national conference" to set a date for further polls which he would not contest.

His pledge, made in a letter read out on state television, has been dismissed as an insult by Algerians weary of his two-decade-old rule.

Bouteflika is widely credited with helping to end a crippling civil war – pitting the army against Islamist insurgents – that killed some 200,000 people in the 1990s. But the leader has been largely out of sight since he suffered a stroke in 2013 that confined him to a wheelchair and severely impaired his speech.

Bouteflika has been in Switzerland since February 24 for what the presidency has described as "routine medical tests".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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