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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 December, 2003, 12:46 GMT
Algerian court freezes main party
Ali Benflis, leader of Algeria's FLN
The challenge for the presidency has rocked the establishment
An Algerian court has frozen the activities of the country's main political party in what appears to be an intensifying power struggle.

The National Liberation Front, formerly the sole ruling party, split this year between supporters and opponents of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

A majority backed party leader Ali Benflis after he announced a bid for the presidency in next year's election.

The court questioned the legality of Mr Benflis' nomination by the party acting on a request by the FLN's pro-Bouteflika faction.

Mr Benflis said the move showed "once again that the president ... will stop at nothing to slake his unquenchable thirst for power," AFP news agency reported.

Mr Bouteflika, who has not yet officially announced whether he will run again for office, sacked Mr Benflis as his prime minister in May, sparking the current power struggle.

Bitter feud

Correspondents say the FLN is facing its worst internal crisis since riots in 1988 ended the monopoly of power it had enjoyed since Algeria became independent from France in 1962.

After President Bouteflika sacked Mr Benflis in May, he went on to reshuffle the cabinet, dropping most of the FLN's ministers.

Both men previously 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 sought to undermine them.

But they became increasingly divided over issues of political and economic reform, with Mr Bouteflika much more cautious, fearing reform could incite military rebellion.

Algerian PM sacked
06 May 03  |  Africa
Timeline: Algeria
03 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
03 Mar 03  |  Country profiles

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