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Government-Opposition Talks Adjourn Until Aug. 22

August 2, 1991

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ The government and opposition parties today adjourned three days of talks aimed at achieving democratic reforms, lifting the state of emergency and scheduling legislative elections.

The talks ended with no progress on setting a date for Algeria’s first democratic legislative elections since it won independence from France in 1962. They had been promised for later this year.

There was also no progress made on a key opposition demand - scheduling presidential elections. President Bendjedid Chadli has said they will be held before 1993, but has offered no date.

It was announced that the conference would reconvene on Aug. 22, and the more than 40 opposition groups in attendance were told to come up with a detailed outline of their suggestions for holding a legislative vote before the end of the year.

During today’s meeting, Premier Sid Ali Ghozali said holding elections would allow Algeria to pass ″from the era of legality to the era of legitimacy.″

He was referring to the ruling National Liberation Front’s monopoly on power since independence. Although other political parties were legalized in 1989, the ruling party holds all the seats in the National Assembly.

Legislative elections had been scheduled for June 27, but were postponed after protests led by the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front turned into widespread rioting.

That prompted Bendjedid to impose a state of emergency similar to martial law, under which the military has wide-ranging powers of search and arrest.

The Salvation Front boycotted this week’s conference because its top two leaders remain in detention on charges of fomenting dissent and subversion.

During Thursday’s session, Ghozali attempted to distance the current administration from the unrest, saying it was caused by government officials systematically lying to the people in the past.

He added that the deceit was ″so rife that bureaucrats hid the truth from ministers, who themselves were hiding it from the head of state.″

A protege of the president, Ghozali has tried to portray his mentor as a supporter of reform.

As part of his new policy of openness, Ghozali announced that the state of emergency had resulted in 55 deaths, 326 injuries and 2,976 arrests.

Of those arrested, 1,110 remain in custody and 809, including Islamic Salvation Front leaders Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj, will be tried on various charges, he said.

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