Algeria army chief calls for ‘dialogue’ with protesters

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Algeria’s army chief called on Wednesday for dialogue between protesters and state institutions, a day after pushing back against demonstrators’ demands for top politicians to quit.

“I remain entirely convinced that adopting constructive dialogue with the institutions of the state, is the only way to exit from the crisis,” General Ahmed Gaid Salah said in a statement published by the defense ministry.

This is “the wisest way to present constructive proposals, bring points of view closer and reach a consensus around the available solutions,” he added.

Salah was for years an ardent supporter of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, until demanding on April 2 that impeachment proceedings be launched against the ailing leader -- who stepped down the same day.

An interim president has been put in place and elections set for July 4, but protests which pushed Bouteflika from power have not abated.

On Wednesday hundreds of people rallied outside the General Workers’ Union in the capital Algiers, marking May Day, where they clutched Algerians flags and shouted slogans against the “system.”

Police prevented them from joining other protesters gathered outside the city’s iconic post office, the focal point of demonstrations which began in February and have regularly drawn vast crowds.

Salah on Tuesday rebuffed calls by demonstrators for interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah, the former upper house speaker, and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui to step down.

In a speech, the army chief said the upcoming polls -- which fall within the timeframe allowed by the constitution -- amount to “the ideal solution to end the crisis.”

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