Algeria Wants France to Boost Economic Help
Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika appealed to France to boost assistance, especially in debt relief, diplomats told AFP Wednesday.
Bouteflika made the request to French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine during a one-day visit to the Algerian capital Tuesday.
French diplomats said Algeria is seeking relief for its external debt currently close to 26 billion dollars. Algeria also wants Paris to encourage more private French investment, the agency said.
Vedrine's staff told journalists the foreign minister's visit had sought to take some of the heat out of strained relations.
Observers noted that Bouteflika on Tuesday described France's will to cooperate as "reasonable," a pointedly low-key assessment that appeared to imply criticism, according to the agency.
Algerian officials say a reduction in debt servicing would give the country a chance for greater public investment in priority sectors such water, urban renewal, infrastructure and transport. Vedrine has been criticized in Paris for traveling to Algiers at a time when the North African country's human rights record is under attack, notably over charges that the security forces may be involved in nine years of Islamist violence against civilians.
The trip comes also amid criticism over Algeria's failure to end the decade-long conflict against armed Islamic fundamentalists, criticism fanned by a recent book by a former Algerian army officer who fled to France after accusing his colleagues of massacring civilians.
In "The Dirty War," Habib Souaida, 32, an officer in Algeria's airborne special forces, alleged that massacres committed by Algeria's armed Islamic militant rebels were more than matched by the military's own atrocities.
He told French radio on Tuesday that he would return to testify if an international commission of inquiry was set up, though he doubted such a commission could be formed. He also accused the West of turning a blind eye to the killings.
Vedrine made no mention of the controversy on his arrival, only saying he had come to tackle "concrete problems" between the two countries.
Meanwhile, Kuwait's News Agency (KUNA) reported that Eritrean President Isaias Afworki arrived Wednesday night in Algiers on a two-day visit at the invitation by Bouteflika. Diplomatic sources told the agency that Afworki's visit is the first by an Eritrean president since the independence of Eritrea in 1993.
Algeria played a key role in the peace negotiations between Ethiopia and Eritrea and hosted the signing of the agreement on December 12 - Albawaba.com
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