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Saturday, September 4, 1999 Published at 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK

World: Africa

Algeria sticks by Morocco allegation

Many Algerians have been affected by the violence

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has repeated allegations that Morocco is harbouring Islamic rebels who took part in a massacre in Algeria in August.

A Moroccan government spokesman on Thursday officially denied that Morocco had anything to do with suspected members of the Armed Islamic Group or GIA who were involved in the massacre.

On 14 August 29 people were killed at a false roadblock at Beni Ounif, near the Moroccan border.

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The spokesman said Morocco received the Algerian allegations with "deep astonishment".

But President Bouteflika said he was not convinced by the statement.

He said he still believed the armed group behind the killings had fled into Morocco. Earlier he had said he had "categoric evidence" to back up his assertion.

President Bouteflika has also accused Morocco of turning a blind eye to the drug trade between the two countries.

"We say yes to the policy of neighbourliness and fraternity, but the policy of drugs is not welcome. The policy of a neighbour exporting death to his neighbour is not welcome," said the president.

Rocky relations

Mr Bouteflika and King Mohammad of Morocco are due to hold a summit in a few weeks' time in an effort to improve relations between the two countries, which have been strained for several years.

The Algerian president hopes to promote improved regional accord through the Arab Maghreb Union.

Algeria closed its borders with Morocco in 1994 after Morocco decided to apply visa restrictions on Algerians following a terrorist attack that killed three Spanish tourists in Marrakesh.

At the time, Morocco accused the Algerian secret service of being involved in the attack.

Another source of contention is that Algeria backs the separatist Polisario movement in the Western Sahara, annexed by Morocco in 1975.

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