Bouteflika: Algeria Wants to Buy US Weapons
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said in Washington Friday that his country was looking to purchase military equipment from the United States, reported AFP.
"We are seeking specific equipment, which would enable us to maintain peace, security and stability in Algeria. The Americans are studying our request with open minds, but I cannot say more," Bouteflika told journalists at a press conference.
The Algerian leader is on a 48-hour official visit to Washington, his first ever, and met Thursday with US President George W. Bush at the White House.
"The friendship between our two countries is stronger than ever," Bouteflika said Friday.
The United States has steadily improved security ties with Algeria since 1999.
But the administration appears to have ruled out any major weapons sales, according to the Middle East Newsline (MENL) Saturday.
Instead, Washington appears ready to supply Algiers with advanced equipment required for counterinsurgency operations.
This includes, said MENL, night-vision systems, infrared sensors and other equipment.
Algeria is a major oil exporter to the United States and trade last year amounted to $3.5 billion.
Diplomatic sources said US military delegations had been in Algiers to determine the security requirements of the North African nation. In addition, the air forces of the two countries have begun cooperating.
The security relationship between Algeria and Washington, the sources said, was based on close coordination in the battle against “terrorism.”
The two countries exchange intelligence on Islamic militants, particularly those believed connected to Saudi billionaire fugitive Osama Bin Laden, said the report.
Most of Algeria's weapons have come from China and Russia. Since 1996, Algeria has purchased nearly $800 million in defense systems, most of them from Moscow.
In addition, Gulf allies of Algiers have offered Bouteflika advanced systems purchased from the West, it said.
Civil war broke out in Algeria in 1992 after the army prevented the now-outlawed fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front from taking power by calling off the second round of general elections that the FIS had been poised to win.
Authorities estimate that the violence since then has claimed more than 100,000 lives, mainly of civilians.
Moreover, Bouteflika faces unrest among the ethnic Berber minority and protests over a bloody police crackdown – Albawaba.com
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