Monday, July 5, 1999 Published at 20:59 GMT 21:59 UK
World: Middle East
Algeria frees first 30 militants
Relatives wait outside Serkadji prison in Algiers
The Algerian authorities have begun releasing Islamic militants from jail, a day after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika pardoned thousands of prisoners in a new bid to end the long-running civil conflict.
The amnesty is intended for those convicted for lesser offences, such as providing shelter or funds to armed extremists. It was not announced how many people would benefit, but press estimates have ranged from 5,000 to 15,000.
President Bouteflika said those guilty of what he called blood crimes or rape would not be released.
The Algerian government also plans a wider amnesty to cover militants still at liberty.
"The state is strong now, and the strong are capable of forgiving," Bouteflika said.
" It reflects the president's pledge to the people that he will achieve peace," the radio said.
He recently called a referendum on a peace deal with the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in an effort to end the conflict.
Algeria was plunged into violence when the authorities cancelled a 1992 general election in which FIS had a commanding lead.
One FIS faction - the Coordinating Council of the Islamic Salvation Front - welcomed the amnesty as a "positive measure".
But in a statement from Paris, it said the president should take a series of further measures to bring about reconcilation.