* Organisers say not swayed by government concessions
* President promised to allow greater democratic freedoms
* Govt wants to keep out wave of protest in Arab states
By Lamine Chikhi
ALGIERS, Feb 4 Algerian opposition groups said
on Friday they would probably go ahead with a planned protest
march next week despite promises from the president to heed some
of their demands and allow more political freedoms.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, keen to stop uprisings in
Egypt and Tunisia spreading to his energy-exporting state, said
on Thursday he would give the opposition air time on television
and soon lift a 19-year-old state of emergency. [ID:nLDE71228E]
"I believe we will march as Bouteflika's new measures did
not convince us," said Rachid Malawi, head of the independent
union of civil servants and one of the protest organisers.
"I don't think this government is serious about implementing
democracy in Algeria," he told Reuters.
A coalition of civil society groups, small trade unions and
some opposition parties had been planning to hold a protest
march in the capital on Feb. 12 to demand a change of government
and reforms including the lifting of emergency powers.
The protest is not backed by Algeria's main trade unions or
the biggest opposition forces -- the FFS party and Islamist
parties which were banned in the early 1990s but still retain
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Officials have said they will not give permission for a
march for reasons of public order, potentially setting the stage
for clashes with riot police. The authorities have said the
protesters can instead hold a protest in a designated venue.
"We will march because Bouteflika did not accept our demand
to lift the state of emergency without conditions," said Mohsen
Belabes, a spokesman for the opposition RCD party.
"Algiers is the safest city in Algeria but Bouteflika is
against allowing marches in Algiers."
The state of emergency had been cited as the grounds for
banning marches across Algeria, but Bouteflika said on Thursday
that restriction would stay in force in the capital.
Several members of the opposition coalition told Reuters
they would meet in the next few days to reach a final decision
on the protest and what form it would take.
Algeria shares many features with its neighbour Tunisia,
where a popular uprising forced the long-serving authoritarian
president to flee on Jan. 14, and with Egypt where President
Hosni Mubarak is under siege from over a week of mass protests.
Many Algerians express anger with their government over
unemployment and limits on democracy.
But analysts say a revolt is unlikely because the government
can use cash from energy exports to satisfy economic grievances.
Many Algerians are also wary of turmoil after enduring years of
conflict between security forces and Islamist insurgents.
A banned protest in Algiers organised by the RCD party on
Jan. 22 attracted a few dozen supporters and was quickly snuffed
out by riot police. Several people were injured in the clashes.
(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Mark Heinrich)