Jailed Muslim Leader Makes New Offer to Help End Algeria Crisis
A jailed leader of Algeria's disbanded Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) has reiterated an offer to help in the search for a peaceful solution to the country's crisis, a report said Saturday.
Ali Belhadj, who is serving a 12-year jail term, made the offer in a recent letter to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the Es Sahafa daily said.
Belhadj, the FIS number two, called at the same time for a review of his trial, the newspaper added.
His letter follows a recent request by former Algerian president Ahmed ben Bella that he be allowed to speak to Belhadj in the military prison at Blida, 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Algiers, where he has been incarcerated since 1992.
Ben Bella made his request in the name of the international non-governmental organization North-South 21, which he heads.
The report said the health of Belhadj, who is suffering a stomach ulcer, had deteriorated.
Algeria has been wracked by civil war since 1992, when the military stepped in to deny certain electoral victory by the FIS.
More than 100,000 lives have since been lost, many in violence blamed on Islamic fundamentalists.
The government last year held out a conditional amnesty to extremist groups. The amnesty ran for a six-month period but the violence has continued unabated since it was ended.
The jailed leader has reportedly offered to play a role in ending the crisis several times in recent months.
Other press reports have said that Belhadj had in November made a similiar offer to Bouteflika, saying that if he was released, he would be able to convince the armed groups to lay down their weapons.
The letters have been neither confirmed nor denied by the authorities.
A rumor reported in a number of newspapers say that Belhadj will be released at the end of the month of Ramadan, towards the end of December.
Belhadj was jailed at the same time as FIS leader Abassi Madani, who was freed in July 1997 and who is now under house arrest in Algiers.
Five other FIS leaders, condemned to six years in jail in 1992, were freed in 1994 -- ALGIERS (AFP)
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