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The Latest: New Algeria leader vows move toward elections

April 9, 2019
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Algerian police forces use a water cannon as students demonstrate in Algiers, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Algerian police have fired tear gas and water cannon to break up a group of students protesting in the country's capital, less than an hour after the country's parliament chose an interim leader. (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — The Latest on Algerian protest (all times local):

8:50 p.m.

Algeria’s new interim leader has vowed to quickly put in place an independent body to lay the groundwork for elections within the 90 days of his tenure.

Abdelkader Bensalah was appointed interim president Tuesday to replace longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who stepped down a week ago under pressure from protesters. Bensalah was an ally of Bouteflika, and protesters want him to go, too.

Bensalah must ensure presidential elections are held within 90 days, according to the constitution.

In an address to the nation on national television, he announced plans to urgently create a “sovereign” body, with the help of the political class and civil society, to lay down conditions for “honest and transparent elections.”

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3:15 p.m.

Algeria’s influential military says the country’s people are entitled to a peaceful atmosphere but hasn’t commented yet on the appointment of an interim president protesters are opposing.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the army will work to ensure “the Algerian people’s legitimate right to enjoy total tranquility for the present and the future of the country.”

The inconclusive statement suggests the army might wait before deciding whether to take action and on which side.

The statement did not specifically address Parliament’s decision to appoint Abdelkader Bensalah as interim president to replace longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Bensalah was an ally of the former president.

Protesters immediately took to the streets to reject his appointment to the post.

Military chief of staff Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah turned against Bouteflika last week and sided with the protesters, leading to the president’s departure.

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1 p.m.

Algerian police have fired pepper spray and a water cannon to break up a group of students protesting in the country’s capital, less than an hour after the country’s parliament chose an interim leader.

An Associated Press photographer saw authorities trying to break up the student demonstration, which coincided with the parliamentary gathering to name a replacement for former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned last week under pressure from a pro-democracy protest movement that won the army’s backing.

An array of pro-democracy protesters who drove the leader out after two decades in power had demanded the ouster of the country’s entire political hierarchy, including the newly named Abdelkader Bensalah, a key ally of Bouteflika.

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This item has been corrected to show that police fired pepper spray, not tear gas.

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11:15 a.m.

Algeria’s parliament named an interim leader Tuesday to replace former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned last week under pressure from a pro-democracy protest movement that won the army’s backing.

But the protesters who drove the leader out after two decades in power had demanded the ouster of the country’s entire political hierarchy, including the newly named Abdelkader Bensalah, a key ally of Bouteflika and the leader of parliament’s upper chamber. Algerian students were in the streets already in a protest planned to coincide with the parliamentary gathering.

As called for by the Algerian Constitution, Bensalah was named as interim leader for a maximum of 90 days until a new election can be organized. He can’t run for the post himself. Members of the opposition abstained from Tuesday’s vote.

“I am required by national duty to take on this heavy responsibility of steering a transition that will allow the Algerian people to exercise its sovereignty,” Bensalah said.

Algeria’s powerful army chief, Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, was due to speak later Tuesday. Gaid Salah had pulled his support for Bouteflika last week, tipping the balance last week. The military chief of staff’s response to Tuesday’s decision was paramount to the future of the gas-rich country.

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Algerian police forces use a water cannon as students demonstrate in Algiers, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Algerian police have fired tear gas and water cannon to break up a group of students protesting in the country's capital, less than an hour after the country's parliament chose an interim leader. (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)