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France 'Regrets' Expulsion of AFP Reporter from Algeria

FILE - Aymeric Vincenot, AFP's Algiers bureau chief, sits at his office in the capital Algiers, March 1, 2019.

The French government on Wednesday said it "regrets" the move by Algerian authorities to expel an Agence France-Presse journalist from Algiers after they refused to renew his press accreditation for 2019.

"We regret this decision and reiterate our commitment to freedom of the press and the protection of journalists," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in a statement.

Aymeric Vincenot, AFP's bureau chief in Algiers since June 2017, was forced to leave the capital late Tuesday after the end of a final delay granted by the police following the expiration of his visa.

The authorities had refused to renew his press accreditation since late last year.

Vincenot's expulsion comes as Algeria is facing political upheaval in the wake of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika's resignation after two decades in power.

Demonstrators protested again Wednesday against the ruling elite despite a pledge from the interim head of state to hold "transparent" presidential elections within three months.

On Tuesday, police fired tear gas and water cannon for the first time since the wave of protests erupted in mid-February, to try to disperse a student demonstration in Algiers.

AFP's chief executive Fabrice Fries on Tuesday called Vincenot's expulsion "unacceptable," saying that "it is out of the question, in such conditions, to name a new chief of the Algiers bureau for the time being."

France, the former colonial power in Algeria, has been extremely wary about commenting on the political upheaval in the country out of fear it could be perceived to be interfering in the crisis.