A police officer sprays tear gas at anti-government protesters in Algiers. File photo: REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina.

Algiers - Thousands of Algerians demonstrated in the capital Algiers on Friday to demand the country's military steer clear of politics, marking the 13th straight week of anti-government protests.

Army chief of staff Gaid Salah has been in the spotlight since February, when many Algerians took to the streets calling for then-president Abdulaziz Bouteflika to step down after 20 years in power.

Last month, Bouteflika resigned after weeks of nationwide protests and under pressure from the powerful military.

Since then, demonstrations have continued in Algeria to pressure key Bouteflika-era officials into leaving and demand an overhaul of the political system.

On Friday, protesters rallied in the centre of Algiers, raising placards, reading: "No to the rule of generals."

Some protesters were critical of Salah, who was appointed by Bouteflika in 2004.

"Gaid Salah tries to get round people's demands although he is one of the symbols of the Bouteflika regime," Salima Hadaidi, a protester, told dpa.

"Algerians will not accept the military to rule," the 42-year-old woman added at Central Post Square, a focal point of the weekly protests in the capital.

Other demonstrators renewed their demand for the departure of interim President Abdelkader Bensalah, Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui and parliamentary speaker Mouad Bouchareb, regarded as loyalists of Bouteflika.

Bensalah has set presidential elections for July 4, a step that demonstrators opposed.

"There will be no elections," protesters chanted in central Algiers on Friday.

They fear that the polls would be rigged by Bouteflika's allies, who are still in power.

Some demonstrators called Noureddine Bedoui, a former interior minister, the "architect" of fraud in elections previously won by Bouteflika.

"Noureddine Bedoui is the most sworn enemey of the people and one of those who have brought Algeria to its current crisis. He has to learn the lesson and leave," Naziha Bireij, another protester, told dpa.

Weeks before he was forced to resign, Bouteflika named Bedoui as prime minister.

Bouteflika's era is believed to have been dominated by cronyism and mismanagement.

Earlier Friday, police forces had cordoned off Central Post Square and prevented protesters from entering the iconic site, witnesses said.

But later, as the crowds swelled, police lifted the cordon.

The city's authorities said cracks were found in the front stairs of the postal building on the plaza, warning that they pose a threat to public safety. 

The province of Algiers added in a statement that the use of the stairs would be banned pending repairs.

The stairs bear a symbolic significance for protesters, who have gathered there to chant slogans against the ruling elite since the start of the anti-Bouteflika movement.

Police set up security checkpoints on Friday at entrances to the capital in an attempt to reduce the number of protesters coming from nearby areas, witnesses said.

Some protesters said they had to walk on foot in order to reach the centre of the city.

dpa