Debre wraps up fence-mending mission to Algeria

22nd January 2007, Comments 0 comments

ALGIERS, Jan 22, 2007 (AFP) - French speaker Jean-Louis Debre chatted with students at an outdoor Algiers cafe Monday as he wrapped up a three-day visit to Algeria aimed at nudging forward a stalled friendship treaty.

ALGIERS, Jan 22, 2007 (AFP) - French speaker Jean-Louis Debre chatted with students at an outdoor Algiers cafe Monday as he wrapped up a three-day visit to Algeria aimed at nudging forward a stalled friendship treaty.

Debre, president of the National Assembly and a strong ally of President Jacques Chirac, sought to defuse a row over a French law passed in 2005, but since repealed, which stated that schools should stress the "positive role" of French colonialism in north Africa.

Algeria responded by demanding a formal apology for crimes committed under colonial rule, and the dispute has delayed the signing of a friendship treaty that is to open up a new era of relations between France and its former colony.

In an address before parliament on Sunday, Debre acknowledged that the law "had triggered a number of misunderstandings and divisions that were not the intention of the legislator."

"Let's together fulfill our duty of remembrance so that our shared dreams for the future can come true," Debre, the first parliamentary speaker to visit Algeria since independence, told 300 members of parliament.

"All great countries must take responsibility for their history; the glorious past as well as the dark moments.  France, like many other nations, will not fail to meet this requirement," added Debre.

During close to four hours of talks with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Sunday, Debre presented a message from Chirac praising the "high caliber" of exchanges between France and Algeria and the "depth" of cooperation.

Debre described his talks with Bouteflika as "frank" but both men declined to comment on whether the friendship treaty would be signed.

Debre on Sunday also laid a wreath at the Martyrs' monument, a memorial to the 1954-1962 war for Algerian independence from France and signed an agreement to bolster parliamentary cooperation.

After meeting Monday with Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, Debre took time to meet with students from the University of Algiers, joining six of them at a campus cafe to discuss their views on Islam and their hopes for the future.

Debre was due to return to Paris later Monday.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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