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Last Updated: Friday, 13 February, 2004, 21:32 GMT
Berbers to boycott Algerian poll
Belaid Abrika (right), a spokesman for Algerian Berber village committees at news conference in Algiers
Berbers accused the government of a lack of political will
The Berbers in Algeria have said they will boycott the presidential poll set for 8 April.

Spokesman Belaid Abrika told the BBC that the Berbers would also launch a campaign to disrupt the elections in the Kabylie region.

Talks between the Berbers and the government broke down over their demand that the Tamazight language should have equal status with Arabic.

The government has been desperate to strike a peace agreement with Berbers.

Long-running crisis

The BBC's Mohammed Areski Himeur in Algiers says the Berber leaders have rejected the government's offer to hold a referendum on the language question, saying that the marginalisation of Tamazight was a historic injustice.

A fortnight ago they walked out of the talks with the government and returned to Kabylie - a mountainous region in the north-east of Algeria.

The talks between Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and the Berbers, who make up about one fifth of the Algerian population, were aimed at ending a long-running crisis in Kabylie, which saw bloody rioting in 2001.

Mr Ouyahia said the question of Tamazight "concerns all of Algeria" and could be addressed only through a referendum.

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

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