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Algeria’s new Parliament meets for first time

July 22, 1997

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ Meeting for the first time Tuesday, Algeria’s newly elected Parliament discussed ways to speed economic reform and ease political strife in a country that has suffered years of war.

Major changes in government policy are not expected since parties loyal to President Liamine Zeroual, a former general, won a majority in the June 5 legislative elections. A plan presented by Prime Minister Mohamed Ouyahia, of Zeroual’s National Democratic Rally, is expected to be similar to the president’s 1995 campaign platform.

Algeria is seeking to introduce free-market reforms, and the government is expected to pick up the pace of its privatization of companies in non-vital industries.

The privatization measures are likely to be accompanied by expanded social welfare guarantees aimed at helping to reduce the shock of economic reforms, which are likely to increase Algeria’s already high unemployment rate of 28 percent.

The Parliament was also likely to voice its support for Zeroual’s political reforms, which include a series of elections as well as restrictions on the activities of the Islamic Salvation Front. That party follows a strict interpretation of Islam and wants a government based on Islamic law.

Zeroual’s government has been fighting a Muslim rebellion that erupted after the military canceled 1992 parliamentary elections that the Front was on the verge of winning. More than 60,000 people have been killed in violence between Islamic militants and government security forces.

The Front and other religion-based parties have been banned, and two Front leaders who were recently released from prison have been forbidden to take part in politics.

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