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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 14:03 GMT
Chirac 'deserves Nobel Peace Prize'
Jacques Chirac in Algeria
Mr Chirac's visit was the first by a French leader since 1962
French President Jacques Chirac - a Nobel Peace Prize nominee - deserves to win the award if he succeeds in averting war against Iraq, his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika has declared.

In an interview with French radio, Mr Bouteflika said humanity was "tired of war" and that all efforts should be made to find a peaceful solution - as Mr Chirac proposes.

He spoke on the final of day of the French president's landmark trip to Algeria, the first official state visit by a French leader since the country's independence in 1962.

Thousands of Algerians are reported to have packed the streets of the city of Oran on Tuesday to welcome Mr Chirac, who was to fly home later in the day.

It is widely believed that the French leader's opposition to a US-led campaign has been a major factor in the rapturous reception he has received throughout his three day visit.

Symbolic trip

President Chirac has been accompanied by a delegation of leading business people, including the heads of corporate giants TotalFinaElf, Alstom and Airbus, as well as French cultural figures.

At the start of his trip, France and Algeria signed a declaration on increased co-operation.

Chirac (l) greets the crowd in Algeria
Algerians have given Chirac a rapturous welcome
The treaty calls for a strong and unique partnership between the countries, with annual meetings between their heads of state, and increased economic and cultural ties.

However, the main impact of the visit has been symbolic.

In a gesture of friendship, President Chirac presented his Algerian counterpart with the silver seal of the last ruler of Algiers, taken by French forces in 1830.

The two countries have endured difficult relations since Algeria forced its French rulers out, ending more than a century of control by Paris.

In an act underlying the two countries' reconciliation, President Chirac laid a wreath for Algerians who died fighting for independence from France.

On Monday, he received a standing ovation from parliament when he told MPs that the past must not be forgotten. "We must not forget it or renounce it," he said.

He is also thought to have discussed Algeria's home-grown Islamic radical movement, which has been a source of militant activities in Europe and North America.

Since 1992, Islamic militants have been trying to topple the Algerian Government and set up an Islamic state.

They have massacred soldiers and civilians, while government forces have also been accused of widespread human rights abuses. About 120,000 people have died in the conflict.




SEE ALSO:
Chirac addresses Algerian MPs
03 Mar 03 |  Africa
Country profile: Algeria
05 Jun 02 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Algeria
05 Jun 02 |  Middle East
Algeria's 'export of terror'
26 Feb 03 |  Africa


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