Algerian President Backs War on Terror
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said here on Tuesday, at the start of a four-day visit to South Africa, his country "unreservedly" supported the United States' fight against terrorism.
But he questioned the west's apparent double-standards in the war against terrorism, saying European nations were themselves guilty of harbouring terrorists.
"There is the impression of a double standard," Bouteflika told reporters after holding talks with President Thabo Mbeki soon after he arrived.
"There is no such a thing as a good terrorist or a bad terrorist. We are in a better position to know, since we live next door to Europe. We know that many Europeans are safe havens for leaders of terrorist movements."
Referring to ongoing conflict with armed Islamic extremists in his own country, he said Algeria had suffered terrorism for nearly a decade and was therefore ready to join the rest of the world in efforts to combat it.
"So it is all natural that we are ready to join the international community for a collective, consulted and strong action to clear the world of this danger which threatens the whole of mankind.
"This repressive action is made necessary by the damage already recorded in human lives and in material losses and we agree to it unreservedly."
Bouteflika, after the two-hour meeting with Mbeki, lamented the suffering the US airstrikes over Afghanistan has caused civilians but said he believed loss of life was inevitable in any war.
"We support the action taken by (US President George) Bush. As an Arab country we don't like innocent lives being lost, be it in Iraq or in Afghanistan, but I do not believe there is a clean war. I do not believe that that has existed in the history of mankind," he told reporters.
Bouteflika said he believed, however, that the fight against terrorism cannot be centred on Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York, but that efforts should be made to wipe out terrorism wherever it is found.
"It must go along with a serious study on the means to prevent the burst of terrorism of national and international nature," he said.
Bouteflika also called for the creation of a Palestinian state, saying he believed this would make it easier for the Arab world to support the US attempts to eradicate terrorism.
The Algerian president again called on the US to ensure it targetted terrorism and not Arab people or Muslims, a concern he reportedly raised in a telephone conversation with President Bush on Monday.
"Islam has nothing to do with fundamentalism, violence or criminality," he said.
Mbeki, meanwhile, told reporters he had discussed the fight against terrorism with his Algerian counterpart and said they had also talked about the need for an African convention on terrorism.
Bouteflika is in South Africa for the second sitting of the South African-Algerian Binational Commission, which was created in 2000 and is co-chaired by himself and Mbeki.
The two presidents also discussed the New Africa Initiative, the rescue plan for the continent which is being spearheaded by Bouteflika, Mbeki and their counterparts from Nigeria and Senegal.
Bouteflika said South Africa and Algeria were determined to promote the initiative, which is aimed at eradicating war and underdevelopment on the continent, and have already won the backing of the European Union for it.
The plan calls for the developed world to help Africa by scrapping debt and rewarding democracy, but Bouteflika said its implementation was ultimately up to Africans themselves.
The Algerian leader was due to address South Africa's National Assembly later Tuesday -- Cape Town, (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)