EU observers in Algeria reject spying accusation
(ALGIERS) - The head of the European Union mission monitoring Algeria's upcoming legislative polls on Wednesday denied accusations of spying made by an Islamist party official.
"We are here as part of a friendly mission and upon the request of the Algerian authorities. We are not spies," Jose Ignacio Salafranca told a press conference here.
Abderrahmane Saidi, a high-ranking official from the Islamist Movement for Society and Peace (MSP) had told AFP earlier this week that "two European observers, a Hungarian woman and a Greek man, overstepped their brief."
He said the pair "had asked questions that have nothing to do with the elections" during visits in the southern districts of Ouargla, Ghardaia and Laghouat.
Saidi's party is a former partner in the presidential alliance -- which consists of the National Liberation Front (FLN) and the National Rally for Democracy (RND) -- but is still part of the government.
Algeria holds polls on May 10 which will see 44 parties -- half of them newly created -- vie for the national assembly's 462 seats in what President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's regime presents as a key step in ongoing democratic reform.
The Arabic-language daily Ennahar reported Wednesday that Algerian intelligence had launched an investigation into two observers from the EU mission "for espionage" but described them as Polish and Greek.
Salafranca insisted his team of 150 monitors was operating within the law.
He added that he had asked Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia for the voters roll, which critics charge is riddled with irregularities.
Salafranca said the two-month observation mission was costing the EU 3.5 million euros ($4.6 million). A preliminary statement on the election will be issued within 48 hours of the ballot and a longer report within three months.
A total of 500 foreign observers are expected to monitor voting next week, including a 200-strong contingent dispatched by the African Union.
Text and Picture Copyright 2012 AFP. All other Copyright 2012 EUbusiness Ltd. All rights reserved. This material is intended solely for personal use. Any other reproduction, publication or redistribution of this material without the written agreement of the copyright owner is strictly forbidden and any breach of copyright will be considered actionable.