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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 03:16 GMT 04:16 UK
Algerian PM sacked
By David Bamford
BBC correspondent

PM Ali Benflis
Benflis - a fomer friend of the president

The President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has announced he is replacing his prime minister and will shortly name a new government.

The move comes after several weeks of reported differences between the two men on political and economic issues.

The president has named a former Prime Minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, as his favoured candidate to replace Ali Benflis.

But this must be approved by parliament, where Mr Ouyahia has a reputation as a hardliner against Islamist militants.

The Algerian press has been speculating for some days now about a growing split between the president and Prime Minister Ali Benflis - his one-time close friend.

Now their row has broken out into the open.

Fear of reforms

Both men worked together to bolster civilian government against the impact of a decade of Islamist insurgency, and against the old guard in the military, much of which has sought to undermine them.

New candidate Ahmed Ouyahia
Ouyahia has the reputation of a hardliner

But they became increasingly divided over issues of political and economic reform.

Mr Benflis wanted a lot of it - including dialogue with the Islamists and the Berbers - Mr Bouteflika was much more cautious, fearing it would incite military rebellion.

The last straw came in March, when the prime minister scuppered President Bouteflika's strategy to win an early endorsement from the main party, the FLN, ahead of presidential elections next year.

Mr Benflis, who is the FLN's secretary general and is rumoured to be considering running for president himself, would have none of it, and said so publicly.

From then on - it seems - the die was cast.

Timeline: Algeria
03 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
03 Mar 03  |  Country profiles

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