Algiers: As anti-regime protests gain momentum in Algeria, the government Monday rushed to announce that it would end the state of emergency enforced since 1992 in the country, amid fears that Algeria may sink into a similar unrest that ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said the government "within days" plans to end its state of emergency. The announcement comes amid calls for intensifying protests against the government.
"In the coming days, we will talk about it as if it (emergency) was a thing of the past," the Al-Jazeera news quoted Medelci as saying.
Following popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, Algerian protesters have increased pressure on the government to lift the emergency rule.
On Sunday, hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police in the eastern Annaba city. Several people were injured.
The day before, thousands of protesters defied a police ban and protested in the capital Algiers.
Widespread discontent over rising unemployment, poor living conditions and high food prices sparked widespread unrest in the country since January.
Local media reported that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is planning major changes in his government to relieve the pressures on his administration.
Meanwhile, opposition groups have announced they would hold demonstrations in Algiers every Saturday, Al-Jazeera reported.
"We will continue to march until the regime steps down. Each Saturday we will maintain the pressure," Mohsen Belabes, a spokesman for the RCD party, said.
Following the successful revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, several countries in the Arab world felt the ripples.
Tunisia's long-time President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was forced to quit amid a popular uprising, dubbed the Jasmine Revolution.
Jordan's King Abdullah replaced his prime minister after protests, while in Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh told opponents he would not seek a new term.
The Bahrain government has also made several concessions in recent weeks, including promising higher social spending. There have also been calls for anti-government protests in Iran.
A protest called by the RCD in Algiers on January 22 left many injured as police blocked a march on Parliament.
Like their counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt, the protesters have used Facebook and text messages to spread their call for change.
Bouteflika, in power since 1999, has acted to curb price rises and promised political concessions, including pledging to lift a two-decade state of emergency.
But the opposition says this is not enough.
The 74-year-old leader was re-elected in 2004 and again in 2009 after revising the Constitution to allow for an indefinite number of terms.
First Published: Monday, February 14, 2011, 23:40