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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 19:41 GMT
Algeria eyes new US relationship
Algerian massacre victims
Islamists are blamed for much of Algeria's violence
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is on a week-long visit to the United States, is meeting President George W Bush and other senior American officials later on Monday.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
President Bouteflika seeks a strategic alliance
It is the first such meeting since the attacks on the United States in September.

Both American and Algerian officials say the two countries have a common interest in fighting terrorism - a reference to the Islamist insurgency which Algeria's army-backed authorities have been fighting for almost a decade.

Mr Bouteflika's spokesman says he will stress Algeria's willingness to play a full part in the American-led campaign against terrorism.

Algeria has been seeking closer ties with the United States for some time - in order to attract further American investment in its key oil and gas sector.

But the BBC's Heba Saleh says there is now an additional benefit for Algeria's authorities.

The attacks on the United States have created a more favourable international climate for Algiers, she says.

Algerian Islamist networks in Europe are being dismantled, and western governments are expected to show less an inclination to listen to the complaints of international human rights groups and Algerian democracy activists, according to our correspondent.

First-hand experience

This is seen as a welcome change by the government of Mr Bouteflika who wants the Americans to see him as a strategic ally in North Africa.

For the United States, the talks with the Algerian president are part of intensive diplomatic efforts to maintain international support for its military campaign in Afghanistan.

Mr Bush will see several foreign leaders at the White House this week.

However, the relationship with Mr Bouteflika's government is seen as having special significance because Algeria, like Egypt, has had first-hand experience of dealing with the kind of Islamist ideology that is now reflected in the movement surrounding Osama bin Laden.

Correspondents say one possibility is that the Americans may be looking for people who can infiltrate al-Qaeda cells.

They say Algerian spies would have more convincing credentials than most.

See also:

19 Oct 01 | Americas
Roots of extremism
03 Oct 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
20 Sep 01 | Middle East
Algeria 'gives US terror list'
02 Nov 01 | South Asia
US steps up propaganda war
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