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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 January, 2004, 20:24 GMT
Algeria peace talks 'threatened'
Demonstrator throws stones at police
Berbers demand official recognition of their cultural identity
Talks between the Algerian Government and Berber leaders have been suspended following a disagreement over the status of Tamazight language.

The Berbers are demanding official recognition of their cultural identity, especially their language.

Correspondents say the disagreement may lead to the collapse of the talks between both parties.

The Algerian Government wants to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with the Berbers before April elections.

Boycott

The BBC's Mohamed Arezki Himeur in Algiers, says although Tamazight was recognised as a national language in April 2002, the Berbers want it to be given official status to put it on the same level as Arabic.

The Algerian Government has proposed a national referendum on the issue.

But traditional Berber leaders involved in the negotiations have rejected the proposal and have now returned to the Kabylie region to discuss the matter with the community.

They are expected to give a response later on this week.

The Berbers, who make up about one fifth of the Algerian population, say they will boycott the April polls if their demands are not met.

Since independence from France in 1962, the majority Arab community, backed by both the military and Islamist lobbies, have maintained that Arabic must be the sole language to be recognised by the state.




SEE ALSO:
Berber breakthrough in Algeria
31 Jul 03  |  Africa
Algeria's Berbers get language rights
04 Oct 01  |  Middle East
Country profile: Algeria
08 Sep 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Algeria
03 Jul 03  |  Country profiles


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