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Saturday, April 17, 1999 Published at 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK

World: Middle East

Algerian president claims people's trust

Protesters against Mr Bouteflika said "No to dictatorship"

The newly electd Algerian President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has said the outcome of the ballot shows that he has the trust of the Algerian people.

Speaking at a news conference, Mt Bouteflika, said he would govern in the interest of all Algerians, including those who did not vote for him. He also pledged to strive to establish peace in the troubled nation and revive the economy.

Mr Bouteflika was elected unopposed on Friday after six rival candidates pulled out on the eve of the poll, complaining of widespread vote-rigging.

[ image: The new president said he would work for all Algerians]
The new president said he would work for all Algerians
"I would like through you to thank the Algerian people for the trust they gave me," the president told journalists.

"I do not want anything more than to be worthy of this trust, which is heavy.

"Let the other Algerians, who did not vote for me, be assured that I shall attempt with all my effort to be a president of all the Algerians as long as I firmly believe that Algeria is for everyone, without any exception, exclusion or marginalisation."

He also vowed to work to strengthen ties with the United States.

"I shall work with all my efforts to strengthen relations with the US, not because it is known to be the first country in the world, but because there has never been at any time since independence any bilateral problem between the American and Algerian peoples," he said.

Foreign 'disappointment'

But the manner of his victory drew criticism from both the US and France.

US State Department spokesman James Rubin said: "We are clearly disappointed by the events of recent days which led to allegations of fraud and the withdrawal of six of the seven candidates."

[ image: Riot police charged the protesters]
Riot police charged the protesters
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine voiced his country's "disappointment" at the outcome, which he said fell far short of expectations in the "world of 1999".

However Mr Bouteflika appeared to accuse France of interference in Algerian affairs.

"The people of Paris should take care of their own problems. There is no custodianship or protectorate imposed on us. Nobody can pass value judgment on us or on our people."

Mr Bouteflika won a five-year mandate, officially mustering 73% of the vote with a 60% turn-out of the 17.5 million electorate.

He is widely regarded as the favoured candidate of the military, which has played a key role in Algerian politics since independence from France in 1962.

'No popular legitimacy'

The six former candidates have said they do not recognize Mr Bouteflika's presidency.

Jeremy Vine reports on Friday's protests
The most prominent of the six, Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi, called for a new election "as soon as possible."

"The president chosen has no popular legitimacy," he said on French television. "We want the Algerian president to be chosen by the Algerian people and not by three or four people."

Supporters of the six who withdrew from the election massed in the capital Algiers on Friday to hold a protest march in defiance of a ban imposed late on Thursday.

Riot police charged several hundred demonstrators, making at least 10 arrests.

Related coverage: Algerian elections

  • Analysis: Algeria's democratic credentials suffer

  • Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sole contender

  • The candidates who pulled out

  • Eyewitness: A state of fear

  • Algeria: Country profile

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