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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 January, 2004, 17:16 GMT
Angry MPs confront Algiers police
Algerian riot police guard the parliament building
Police prevented demonstrators marching through the city
Algerian riot police have used batons to disperse demonstrators outside the parliament building, including about 100 members of the assembly.

The protesters carried banners denouncing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as a dictator.

They were angered by a recent court decision to freeze the activities of the largest party in parliament, the National Liberation Front (FLN).

Protesters voiced support for the president's arch-rival, Ali Benflis.

The FLN has divided between a faction supporting President Bouteflika and another backing Mr Benflis, a former prime minister who was sacked last May.

Algerian presidential elections are due to be held in three months.

'No democracy'

FLN deputies and party activists attempted to march from the parliament building at around midday but found their route blocked by riot police.

Ali Benflis, leader of Algeria's FLN
Ali Benflis is an arch-rival of President Bouteflika
The Associated Press reported that minor scuffles broke out, leading to a number of arrests and injuries. Abbes Mekhelles, a prominent lawmaker, was taken to hospital with a suspected fractured arm.

Mr Bouteflika, elected in 1999 with the backing of the FLN, has not yet officially announced whether he will run again for office.

He had previously worked with Mr Benflis to bolster civilian government against the impact of a decade of Islamist insurgency, and against the old guard in the military, many of whom sought to undermine them both.

But they became increasingly divided over political and economic reforms, 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

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