Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal will resign to run the reelection campaign of the country's ageing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a source close to the presidency said.

Sellal will be replaced as by Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi, the source told Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

Backed by the National Liberation Front (FLN) party and the army, Bouteflika is almost assured of five more years in power. But his rare appearances have generated doubts about his health and about what happens if he is too sick to rule.

Sellal himself was the first to announce Bouteflika would run again. He did little to ease questions about the president's health when he said he would not need to campaign himself because there were plenty who could do that for him.

Boycott calls

Also on Wednesday, Algerian police prevented opposition leaders from marching to demand a boycott of next month's election in protest against what they see as Bouteflika's unfair advantage in the race.

Why are they so afraid? It is a peaceful march, all we want is to convey a message that Bouteflika is too old, too ill to rule Algeria.

Abdelkader Ait Ali, protester

Opposition members, including figures from the secularist party Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) and the Islamist Movement for Peace and Society (MSP), believe Bouteflika's decision ends fair competition in the election.

Police stopped about 60 protesters from the RCD and MSP who were showing red signs with the word 'Boycott' and told them their demonstration was illegal.

"Why are they so afraid? It is a peaceful march, all we want is to convey a message that Bouteflika is too old, too ill to rule Algeria," said Abdelkader Ait Ali, one of those who tried to take part.

A week ago, the police prevented a movement called Barakat, a small group of protesters including journalists, from marching in the capital Algiers to call for a boycott.

On the same day, Algerian private television channel Al Atlas TV, which has strongly criticised the government, said that it had been ordered to stop broadcasting after police raided its headquarters.

Al Atlas information director Ghoul Hafnaoui told AFP news agency that the satellite channel went off the air in mid-morning, "under orders from the authorities," a day after police searched its premises and seized equipment.

The public prosecutor ordered the search as part of an investigation whose purpose has not been made known, Hafnaoui said.

Source: Agencies