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Last Updated: Monday, 17 January, 2005, 11:20 GMT
Algeria strikes deal with Berbers
Algeria's government has signed a deal with ethnic Berber leaders, promising economic aid for the restive minority and more recognition for its language.

A Berber leader said the deal marked a shift from confrontation to partnership - but that key details remained vague.

A peace effort last year faltered over demands that the Berbers' language win official recognition, alongside Arabic.

Berbers in Algeria's north-east rioted in 2001, complaining of discrimination by the government.

At least 100 people died and thousands were hurt in a series of clashes between security forces and Berber youth, which erupted after the death in police custody of a Berber schoolboy.

Ethnic Berbers claim to pre-date the Arabs, who now account for the majority in Algeria, and are concentrated in two provinces of the north-eastern Kabylie region.

According to varying estimates, they account for between a third and a fifth of Algeria's population of 30 million, and they have campaigned for greater rights since the country won independence from France in 1962.

Detail missing

Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said agreement had been reached with the Berbers on the "El-Kseur platform" - a reference to a list of Berber demands drawn up after the unrest in 2001.

The list includes calls for greater investment in the Kabylie region and for official recognition of Berber music, culture and their language, known as Tamazight.

Several aspects of the new agreement, such as making Tamazight an official language and cutting the number of security forces in Kabylie, have not been agreed in detail and could take years to implement.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, re-elected last year, has promised to heal the divide between the Berbers and the Algerian state.




SEE ALSO:
Rising tide of Berber unrest
19 Jun 01 |  Middle East
Timeline: Algeria
04 Jan 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
26 Nov 04 |  Country profiles



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