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Algeria’s army chief supports Bensalah after his interim term ends

Ryad Kramdi, AFP | Algerian protesters continue to demand the departure of members of the old guard.

Algerian army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah on Wednesday reaffirmed his support for interim president Abdelkader Bensalah, whose term ended July 9 but who remains head of state in the absence of elections.

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A presidential election planned for early July was scrapped, de facto extending Bensalah's presidency for an undetermined period.

On July 4, Bensalah had proposed a "neutral" national dialogue, without the involvement of the state or the military.

Salah said the call from the head of state was a "reasonable and sensible approach" to "get the country out of crisis", in a speech at an official ceremony.

"As much as we encourage and support its contents, we consider his approach as an important step on the path toward the appropriate resolution of this crisis," he added.

Bensalah's proposal did not calm protestors, who have continued to press demands for the departure of members of the old guard that has dominated the oil- and gas-exporting country since independence from France in 1962.

Algeria has been gripped by political upheaval since mass protests in early April forced ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika out of office after two decades in power.

Salah reiterated the army's desire for presidential elections to be held "as soon as possible" and warned against painting Algeria as no longer being a "civilian state", in reference to one of the protest slogans.

The army chief has emerged as the key powerbroker since Bouteflika's departure.

Ex-industry minister detained over corruption allegations

Meanwhile the country’s Supreme Court on Wednesday placed former industry minister Youcef Yousfi in custody over alleged corruption, state television reported.

Yousfi became the latest senior official to be detained in anti-graft investigations since protests erupted earlier this year demanding the prosecution of people seen by demonstrators as corrupt, as well as the removal of the long-ruling elite.

Yousfi, who served as industry minister from August 2017 to March 2019, is accused of "dissipation of public funds and awarding illegal privileges", state television reported, without providing details.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)

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