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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 March 2006, 17:56 GMT
Algeria in Russian weapons deal
Russian-made MiG 29 fighter
Algeria is buying upgraded MiG 29 fighters

Algeria is to buy $7.5bn (4.3bn) worth of Russian weapons and combat planes in return for Russia cancelling its debts to Moscow.

Russia agreed to write off the $4.74bn (2.74bn) Soviet-era debt during a visit by President Vladimir Putin.

It was the first visit by a Russian leader to the North African country in half a century.

Algeria will buy 40 MiG and 20 Sukhoi fighters, and 16 Yak jet trainers, Itar-Tass news agency reported. Also on the shopping list are eight S-300 missile systems and 40 T-90 tanks.

"A serious package of contracts for aircraft has been signed here," the head of MiG, Aleksey Fedorov, told Russia TV.

Algeria's official media confirmed the debt write-off without mentioning the arms deal.

"Algeria and Russia reached agreement on writing off Algeria's debts to Russia, which are estimated at $4.7bn. In return for this, Algeria agreed to buy goods and services from Russia to a value equalling the amount of these debts," state run Channel 3 said.

But independent Algerian newspapers El Watan and L'Expression did note the arms deal, citing Russian sources only, and observing that Algerian officials had not mentioned it.

In neighbouring Morocco, which has tense ties with Algeria over the Western Sahara issue, the official news agency MAP reported the arms-for-debt deal without comment.

President Putin, accompanied by a large business delegation, left Algiers on Friday night after several hours of talks with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

Country profile: Russia
21 Feb 06 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
22 Dec 05 |  Country profiles

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