Algeria ruling party turns its back on Bouteflika: he is ‘history now’

Algeria’s longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been known as a wily political survivor ever since he fought for independence from France in the 1960s, and now he needs to overcome mass protests against his rule. (File/AP)
Updated 15 March 2019
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Algeria ruling party turns its back on Bouteflika: he is ‘history now’

  • The remarks by Hocine Kheldoun to Ennahar television late on Thursday are another major blow to Bouteflika
  • Tens of thousands of Algerians have staged protests for weeks demanding a new era

ALGIERS: Algeria’s ruling FLN party showed more signs of turning its back on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Friday, with one senior party figure saying in an interview overnight that the long-serving leader was “history now.”
Bouteflika has reversed a decision to stand for another term after mass protests against his rule. He has been losing allies rapidly in recent days since returning from medical treatment in Switzerland.
The remarks by Hocine Kheldoun to Ennahar television late on Thursday were another major setback Bouteflika, who hoped to pacify Algerians by promising to take steps to change the political landscape dominated by the president and the ruling elite for decades.
Kheldoun, a former spokesman for the ruling party, became one of the most senior FLN officials to break with Bouteflika publicly. He said the party had to look forward and support the aims of demonstrators protesting against Bouteflika.
The FLN holds the majority in all elected assemblies, including parliament and local city councils.
Tens of thousands of Algerians have staged protests for weeks demanding a new era with younger leaders who would offer greater social freedoms and prosperity.
Bouteflika, 82, has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, and the protesters say he is no longer in a fit state to rule. They took to the streets after Bouteflika, in office for 20 years, announced he would stand again, forcing him to reverse that decision this week.
“Game over”
A former minister who is familiar with Bouteflika’s inner circle told Reuters that the president could not survive given the pressure building against him from Algerians of all social classes.
“Game over. Bouteflika has no choice but to quit now,” the former minister said on condition of anonymity.
More mass protests are expected on Friday in the early afternoon after prayers.
Many Algerians say that the ailing president and other veterans of the 1954-1962 war of independence against France should hand over power to young technocrats who can focus on unemployment, poor services and stamping out corruption.
Although Bouteflika will not stand again and named a new prime minister, he stopped short of immediately stepping down. He intends to remain in power pending a national conference on political change and a new constitution.
But his position is becoming more tenuous as he has lost one ally after another, including prominent members of the FLN, which has dominated since France’s defeat in 1962.
The military, which has traditionally played a behind-the-scenes power broker role, has distanced itself from Bouteflika and stayed in its barracks throughout the crisis. It is expected to retain influence under all scenarios.
Algeria was relatively untouched when the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprisings swept away veteran autocrats in the Arab world. Bouteflika and his allies, effective manipulators of the opposition, managed to avoid major unrest by spending oil money on the population.
Bouteflika was credited with ending a civil war against Islamist insurgents in which tens of thousands of people were killed in the 1990s, and many Algerians long accepted heavy-handed rule as the price of stability.
But the public has turned out onto the streets angry at deteriorating economic conditions and the ruling party’s failure to make the transition to a new generation of leaders despite the president’s failing health.


Iran's foreign minister walks back from remark on missile talks

Updated 17 July 2019
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Iran's foreign minister walks back from remark on missile talks

  • Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with NBC News that if the US wants to talk about Iran's missiles, it needs "first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region"
  • A compromise deal remains the best way to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday

TEHRAN: Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday that his country has no choice but to manufacture missiles for defense purposes — comments that reflect more backtracking after a remark by the top diplomat suggesting the missiles could be up for negotiations.
Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with NBC News that aired earlier this week that if the US wants to talk about Iran's missiles, it needs "first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region."
Iran has long rejected negotiations over its ballistic missile program, which remains under the control of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard that answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The foreign minister's remarks suggested a possible opening for talks as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington.
But the Iranian mission to the United Nations promptly called Zarif's suggestion purely "hypothetical" and said the Iranian missiles were "absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period."
In Tehran, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, tweeted late on Tuesday that Zarif's comments meant to challenge Washington and "threw the ball into the US court while challenging America's arm sales" to its Mideast allies.
Zarif himself on Wednesday backpedaled on the missiles issue, saying Iran has no choice but to manufacture the missiles for its own defense.
He cited the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and tweeted that, "For 8 YEARS, Saddam (Hussein) showered our cities with missiles & bombs provided by East & West. Meanwhile, NO ONE sold Iran any means of defense. We had no choice but building our own. Now they complain."
"Instead of skirting the issue, US must end arms sales to Saddam's reincarnations," Zarif also said.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have sharply escalated since President Donald Trump unilaterally last year withdrew America from the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.
America has also rushed thousands of additional troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Mideast amid unspecified threats from Iran.
Mysterious oil tanker blasts near the Strait of Hormuz, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran's shooting down of a U.S. military drone in the past months further raised fears of a wider conflict engulfing a region crucial to global energy supplies.

A compromise deal remains the best way to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.

The UN nuclear watchdog has confirmed that Iran earlier this month violated the 2015 accord, and Iran's supreme leader on Tuesday said Tehran would keep removing restraints on its nuclear activity in the deal.

In her last major speech before stepping down next week, May said the nuclear deal must be protected "whatever its challenges".

"Whether we like it or not a compromise deal remains the best way to get the outcome we all still ultimately seek – to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to preserve the stability of the region," May said.

Recently, British authorities intercepted the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, and seized it with the help of British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar.
They believed it to be violating European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria. Spanish authorities said the seizure came at the request of the United States.
This is not the only issue between Iran and Britain.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran following her arrest in April 2016 on charges of plotting against the Iranian government, has been transferred to a hospital mental health facility, her husband said Wednesday.
Her family denies the allegations against her.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said in Britain that his wife has been moved to the mental health ward of Iman Khomeini hospital under the control of the Revolutionary Guard.
"Hopefully her transfer to hospital means that she is getting treatment and care, despite my distrust of just what pressures can happen behind closed doors. It is unnerving when we don't know what is going on," he said.
Iran does not recognize dual nationality.
British officials have urged Iranian officials to let her have contact with her family.