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Algerians approve peace plan - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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ALGIERS, Reuters) – Algerian voters overwhelmingly approved a partial amnesty for hundreds of Islamic rebels intended to end more than a decade of civil war, Interior Minister Noureddine Zerhouni said on Friday.

&#3497.43 percent voted ”yes”,&#34 he told a news conference, adding that almost 80 percent of the North African country”s 18.3 million eligible voters took part.

The referendum on Thursday was on whether to approve a &#34charter for peace and national reconciliation&#34.

The long conflict isolated oil-producing Algeria amid atrocities by rebels and allegations of crimes by security forces. More than 150,000 people died, mostly civilians.

The provinces hardest hit by a decade of Islamic rebel violence had seen participation in Thursday”s referendum exceeding 90 percent.

&#34Nobody can be against peace and nothing can be done without peace. That”s why I voted ”yes”,&#34 Slimane Azi, a mechanic in a suburb of Algiers, told Reuters.

Voting was marred by violence in several provinces in the east of the country, particularly in the restive Berber region of Kabylie where opposition parties had called for a boycott.

Participation was 11.5 percent in Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia.

There were no independent organisations monitoring the nationwide ballot and analysts questioned the high level of participation given many polling stations were half-empty.

&#34I can”t see why you would be surprised by the (high) participation level,&#34 Zerhouni said. &#34The vote was done in total transparency.&#34

Some small opposition parties accuse President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of using the referendum to strengthen his grip on the Arab state. They also say Algeria should not put the bloody past behind but seek accountability and the truth.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, say the charter will sweep under the carpet horrendous abuses, including the fate of thousands of missing persons.

The conflict began after the army cancelled the second round of Algeria”s first multi-party legislative election, which the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was on course to win in 1992.

Around 1,000 militants, most belonging to the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), remain active and carry out sporadic deadly attacks, mostly against soldiers.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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