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Algeria Updates: Parties React as Government Offers Concession on Sugar and Cooking Oil

2125 GMT: Ali Belhadj, who was Vice President of the now-banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), and fellow detainees have been brought to court from the headquarters of national security. The charges are not clear, although they are thought to be related to this week's protests.

In late 1991, FIS won the first round of Parliamentary elections, but these were called off by the military, who banned the party. Belhadj was jailed from 1991 to 2003 and re-arrested in 2005 for a statement on Al-Jazeera. He was freed in March 2006 under the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation.

2000 GMT: Journalist Mustapha Benfodil has been released after several hours of questioning. He was detained with several demonstrators in a protest in Staouéli (see 1645 GMT).

1645 GMT: Journalist Mustapha Benfodil of El Watan has been arrested, along with several members and supporters of the Intermunicipal Citizens Committee of Ain Benian Staouéli, during a peaceful rally in the coastal city of Staouéli.

Benfodil's analysis of the protests had been published a few hours before his detention.

1550 GMT: Dernières Nouvelles d'Algérie reports on hundreds of detained protesters awaiting trial.

Minister of Interior Dahou Ould Kablia (see 1345 GMT) has said troublemakers "will not go unpunished". He said about 1,000 protestors had been arrested, adding that they would appear before judges beginning Sunday.

1420 GMT: A demonstration in Oran of fifty young people, mostly students and artists, has been dispersed by police.

1345 GMT: The Minister of Interior, Daho Ould Kablia, says protests have been "contained", even though there are reports of demonstrations today in several regions, including Bouira, Mascara, and Tizi Ouzou, and in some neighborhoods in Algiers.

Ould Kablia declared, "At present, the situation is contained and the security services have done everything with intelligence and firmness to prevent violent confrontation with the rioters." He claimed that police had suffered 736 casualties but only 53 demonstrators had been injured and three killed. He disputed other figures in the media as "false and alarmist".

Ould Kablia continued to insist that the protest were "unrelated to the socio-economic situation". He claimed, "These young people were thinking only of revenge, because they do not measure all the consequences of their actions," and said parents bore a heavy responsibility.

0755 GMT: Trying to stem protests over economic conditions, the Algerian Government on Saturday announced the suspension of fees and taxes on importers and producers of sugar and cooking oil until 31 August.

Other political parties are manoeuvring for position. Mohcen Bellabes of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) declared, "The Algerian citizen suffers the contempt and injustice of the authorities and the power plays of repression and corruption. " He added, "Change in the political system is a prerequisite and a goal, if we want to avoid chaos." Abderrezak Mokri, Vice-Chairman of the RCD, argued:

Economically, there is no vision. There is a total failure of investment and entrepreneurship, which adds to the corruption. The state is limited only to export oil and launching grandiose projects, but is unable to create jobs.

Moussa Touati, President of the Algeria National Front, claimed, "These explosions are inevitable when the Government does not lead and does not deal with complaints. You should know how to run a state economy."

The Workers Party denounced "the criminal speculation on prices"  and called for "appropriate urgent measures to defuse the crisis". The Socialist Workers Party condemned the policy directions state since the early 1980s with the failures over housing problems and unemployment. The Islamic party al-Nahda called for urgent action and openness to dialogue.

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