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Wednesday, January 7, 1998 Published at 14:30 GMT


Algeria rejects massacre inquiry
image: [ Hundereds of families are reported to be leaving the villages of Had Chekala ]
Hundereds of families are reported to be leaving the villages of Had Chekala

As thousands flee the violence in northwestern Algeria, the military-backed government has ruled out an international inquiry into civilian massacres.

The Today programme asks the BBC's Jim Muir if Algeria takes the calls for an international enquiry seriously (Dur: 2')
Hundreds of families are reported to be leaving an area where the latest massacres took place, headed to cities like Algiers carrying few belongings.

[ image: Refugees flee with as much as they can carry]
Refugees flee with as much as they can carry
At the weekend, at least 160 people are reported to have been killed, many of them women and children.

Algeria has blamed the massacres in the villages of Had Chekala, Remka and Ain Tarik, on Islamic guerillas.

As the exodus from areas in the northwest continued, a diplomatic storm was brewing over international pressure on the Algerian government.

[ image: Villagers have taken up arms to defend themselves]
Villagers have taken up arms to defend themselves
In Algiers the Foreign Ministry rejected proposals by Washington for an international inquiry into recent massacres of civilians.

It summoned the American ambassador Cameron Hume and told him no such inquiry would be welcome, wherever it came from.

It said an inquiry could cast doubt on who was carrying out the killings and contribute to what it called the odious crimes of the terrorists.

At the same time in Paris, Algeria's ambassador to France called on the international community to condemn the slaughters.

Speaking on French television, Ambassador Mohamed Ghoualmi was particularly critical of France, Algeria's old colonial ruler.

He said calls for an inquiry, instead of condemnation of terrorism, merely served to weaken Algeria.

The ambassador said: "It is unacceptable that while there is an eruption of terrorist acts, instead of helping the Algerian state to fight this, instead of condemning terrorism unreservedly, instead of showing clear solidarity with Algeria...pressure is brought to bear exclusively on the state as if it was responsible for this situation."

But Hocine Ait Ahmed, the leader of one of Algeria's main secular opposition parties, the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), said he would welcome an inquiry into the massacres.

He said the support of the international community was needed so that respect for human rights could be restored in the country

Mr Ait Ahmed added that the violence was being used by the government to deploy security forces throughout the country.

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  Internet Links

ArabNet's Algeria

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Official Algerian news agency (French language)

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
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