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U.S. lauds end to Algerian emergency law

ALGIERS, Algeria, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Word that 19 years of emergency law is ending in Algeria was welcomed by the United States Wednesday.

State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley called Tuesday's announcement by the Algerian government a "positive" step toward the expansion of democratic freedoms.

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"We reaffirm our support for the universal rights of the Algerian people, including the freedom of assembly and expression," Crowley said in a statement.

Ahmed Ouyahia, secretary-general of the National Democratic Rally, said Wednesday the state of emergency will be lifted before the end of the month, along with additional major decisions to be announced, Algerie Press Service reported Wednesday.

The other issues will include housing, employment and administration services, he said.

He also noted the wave of popular uprisings across the region cannot be ignored and solutions must be found to address the problems facing Algerian youth, the news agency said.

Under the emergency law, peaceful protests are banned and authorities have much wider liberty to detain citizens.

Thousands of Algerians ignored that ban in recent weeks, staging rallies that at times were met by baton-wielding security personnel and tear gas.

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Algeria has had only one political party, the National Liberation Front, since gaining independence from France 49 years ago. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been in office since 1999.

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