Chirac meets with Algerianpresident to 'deepen ties'

16th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

BORMES-LES-MIMOSAS, France, Aug 16 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac met his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday to discuss ties between their countries, the latest sign of a major reconciliation between France and its former North African colony.

BORMES-LES-MIMOSAS, France, Aug 16 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac met his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday to discuss ties between their countries, the latest sign of a major reconciliation between France and its former North African colony.

Bouteflika spent about four hours at Chirac's official vacation retreat of Bregancon, a fenced-off stone fort on a peninsula jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea in southern France, to which he travelled by helicopter.

Neither leader made any comment to the media.

The two talked about ways of "reinforcing ties between France and Algeria", according to Chirac's office in Paris.

Relations between France and Algeria have grown noticeably stronger in recent months, with Paris pledging increased economic and military cooperation with Algiers, despite lingering resentment in some French circles dating back to the Algerian war of independence in 1954-1962.

The meeting came one day after Bouteflika and 13 other African heads of state attended a ceremony hosted by Chirac on board the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle paying tribute to the thousands of soldiers from France's former colonies who took part in a World War II landing on the French Riviera.

The assault, carried out on August 15, 1944, was a follow-up to the much bigger D-Day invasion launched 10 weeks earlier in northern France.

During the commemoration, Chirac awarded France's highest decoration, the Legion d'Honneur, to 21 veterans of the invasion and, exceptionally, to the Algerian capital of Algiers for its role as a staging ground.

That unusual recognition for Algiers was likely to prove controversial in Chirac's ruling conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party and among French veterans' groups still angry over losing Algeria as a colony.

Indeed, Bouteflika's presence at Sunday's ceremony was attacked by 60 UMP deputies, and associations of French colonists and pro-French Algerian veterans forced out after the war.

The French government brushed off the protests, with Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie saying before the commemoration that the criticism was "totally misplaced".

And Bouteflika issued a statement Monday asserting that the ceremony "made sure that old wounds are well healed" between his country and France.

"A page has been turned now, and it's from this shared pain and these common hopes that we are all committed to a more peaceful future in which our children will not have to face the threats our generation had to suffer," he said.

Chirac has made closer relations with Bouteflika a priority, sending his foreign, defence and economy ministers to Algeria in July, where they reached agreements on a EUR 2 billion (USD 2.4 billion) package of trade loans and reconverted debts, and plans for improving military cooperation.

The French president himself last went to Algiers on April 15, just one week after Bouteflika won re-election with a score of 85 percent of the votes - a showing so high it generated suspicions in some circles in Algeria and France.

France ruled Algeria for 132 years before the war for independence, which claimed an estimated 100,000 French and one million Algerian lives.

A significant number of France's estimated five million-strong Muslim population come from Algeria.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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