UPDATE 1-Algeria's president promises political reform

Sat Mar 19, 2011 4:33pm GMT
 

* Bouteflika seeking to prevent Egypt-style revolt

* Ending of emergency rule "first step" to more change

* No details on what the reforms will be

(Adds background)

ALGIERS, March 19 (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika promised political reform, in an attempt to ward off the kind of unrest that has toppled leaders in other parts of the Arab world.

Algeria, one of the European Union's biggest gas suppliers, lifted a 19-year-old state of emergency last month in a concession to the opposition.

Bouteflika said this was the first step on the way to more reform.

The lifting of the state of emergency "will be a new page opened on the path to comprehensive reforms ... which cannot be fruitful in the absence of political reforms," the state-run APS news agency quoted Bouteflika as saying.

Bouteflika did not give any details about what reforms were planned. Changes proposed by some Algerian politicians include amending the constitution to limit presidents to two terms in office, and allowing new parties to register.

Many Algerians express discontent about high unemployment, poor housing conditions, high prices and restrictions on political freedoms. Those grievances have led to outbreaks of rioting, small opposition protests and strikes.

However, these have not so far coalesced into a single, broad-based protest movement of the kind that overthrew the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt. (Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by David Cowell)

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