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Papers blast 'wait-and-see' Algeria over Libya upheaval

August 23, 2011

Sheikh Abdallah Djaballah, 54, head of a party called the Front for Justice and Development, gestures during an interview with Reuters in his office in Algiers. –File Photo

ALGIERS: Algerian newspapers on Tuesday were critical of what they said was their government's “lethargic” attitude to the changes taking place in Libya and other North African countries.

“History is in the making and where is Algeria? Absent, lethargy-stricken!” the French language El Watan daily said.

“The map of North Africa is changing fast and Algeria is just observing, groping and shilly-shallying,” it said.

Following a major military push on Sunday, Libya's Western-backed rebels seized control of most of Tripoli, leaving Muammar Qadhafi's 42-year-old rule hanging by a thread and world leaders urging him to admit defeat.

The Quotidien d'Oran newspaper predicted Algiers would pay the price for its undecisive attitude towards the six-month-old conflict in neighbouring Libya.

“Algiers was static and non-committal. It should now expect stormy relations with the new rulers of Libya,” it said.

Dozens of countries, including in the Arab world, have already recognised the National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of one of Africa's top oil producers.

But Algeria, which shares a long border with Libya, has not recognized the rebel administration and never officially called for Qadhafi's departure.

The El Khabar newspaper also said that “relations with Libya, the largest neighbour in the Maghreb, will be strained.”

“Algerian diplomacy is maintaining its wait-and-see policy... Its silence was deafening and its subsequent declarations quite ambiguous,” Le Soir wrote.

Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in neighbouring Tunisia was forced to relinquish power under pressure from the street in January after ruling his country with an iron fist for more than two decades.

A month later, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down after a popular uprising.

In Morocco, King Mohammed VI had to devolve some of his powers to elected bodies under growing calls for more democracy.

Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco have all recognized the Libyan National Transitional Council's legitimacy.

In Algeria's French language paper L'Expression, an editorial pointed out as dictators were falling one after the other, Qadhafi “was certainly not the last.”

Algeria grappled with its own social unrest in January when mounting public grievances over unemployment and rising costs led to protests and a series of self-immolations.