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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 10:18 GMT
Algerian press hails Chirac visit
Chirac and Bouteflika
Presidents Chirac and Bouteflika hope for warmer relations

President Jacques Chirac's stand on Iraq won him a warm reception when he arrived in Algiers on a state visit.

His is the first visit by a French president since the former French colony won independence in 1962. BBC Monitoring looks at how Algerian newspapers covered the event.

"Algiers, the rebel city, has opened its doors to Jacques Chirac," Le Matin writes.

"Its population did not miss the opportunity of giving him a welcome that nobody in France was expecting," the French-language Algiers daily adds.

According to the Arab daily El Fajr, "President Jacques Chirac arrived to steal the limelight and overshadow the worries of the Algerian street".

The people, it adds "responded strongly to the visit of this man such that he seemed more important than President Abdelaziz Bouteflika".

It describes the rapturous welcome as "rare and unique".

The Arabic-language daily El Khabar concurs that the welcome was special and exceeded that normally afforded to Arab leaders.

"Despite the sensitivity of the French-Algerian historical relations, the Algerians came out in big crowds to hail Chirac and thank him for the position of his country over the possible war on Iraq."

[Algerians] came out to salute a head of state whose defiance of US President George Bush has been very much appreciated here

Algerian newspaper El Watan

El Watan also marvels at "the spontaneity of the welcome given by hundreds of thousands of Algiers residents".

They came out "to salute a head of state whose defiance of US President George Bush has been very much appreciated here", the paper contends.

Algerian security forces also played their part in ensuring a smooth welcome for the French leader.

A planned demonstration by the Berber movement resulted in arrests, El Watan reports, "clearly showing the determination of the authorities to make sure that nothing spoils Jacques Chirac's visit".

Warm relations

The Algerian press also focused on how the visit is likely to affect relations between Algiers and Paris, which have proved difficult since the French quit the North African nation after 130 years of occupation.

"Something very dramatic has just happened between France and Algeria," the French-language Liberte writes.

"The overhaul in French-Algerian relations which has been much talked about... has certainly begun."

The government-owned El Moudjahid rejects any notion of tension between the two countries, acknowledging the historical significance of Mr Chirac's visit.

"We know that at the political level, there is perfect harmony between Presidents Bouteflika and Chirac and there are no serious differences between France and Algeria, which turned a new leaf of their history yesterday," an editorial says.

But Le Matin cautions that Mr Chirac's visit could also pose a problem.

"Inevitably, the question is to know whether he came to support Mr Bouteflika's policy, and... impose a neo-colonial rapport or to support the aspirations of the Algerians to a future of freedom and democracy?"

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Chirac given rapturous reception
03 Mar 03  |  Africa
Chirac addresses Algerian MPs
03 Mar 03  |  Africa
Country profile: Algeria
03 Mar 03  |  Country profiles

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