UN wants democratic transition in Algeria


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed efforts towards a peaceful and democratic transition in Algeria, where weeks of protests pushed for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to end his 20-year rule.

Addressing an Arab League summit in Tunis, Guterres said any steps should be made in a way “that addresses the concerns of the Algerian people in a timely way”.

On Saturday, the army chief of staff, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, renewed a call for the Constitutional Council to rule whether the ailing 82-year-old Bouteflika is fit to rule, a move provided for under article 102 of the charter.

His attempt to break the political impasse failed to placate demonstrators, who reject military intervention and want to dismantle the ruling elite, including veterans of the war of independence against France, army officers, the ruling party and business tycoons.

Several close allies, including members of the ruling FLN and union leaders, abandoned Bouteflika, who rarely appears in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

Leading Algerian businessman Ali Haddad, part of Bouteflika’s inner circle, was arrested at the Tunisian border, a close associate said.

“Yes, Haddad was arrested,” an associate told Reuters on condition of anonymity, without elaborating. Several Algerian television stations broadcast news on the detention of Haddad, a media magnate who helped to fund Bouteflika’s election campaigns.

Bouteflika’s announcement that he would not seek a fifth term but also would not quit immediately fuelled anger in the North African country, an oil and gas producer.