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Chirac to visit Algeria on Thursday

PARIS, April 12 (AFP) – French President Jacques Chirac will go to Algiers on Thursday to meet his Algerian counterpart, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was re-elected last week with a surprisingly large proportion of ballots.

Chirac’s office said the French and Algerian leaders would have a working lunch together, and that Chirac would return to Paris later the same day.

Bouteflika was elected last Thursday for a second five-year term with 85 percent of the vote. His main opponent, former prime minister Ali Benflis, has contested the results.

Chirac last Friday sent a message of congratulations to Bouteflika, and promised him France’s support for future economic and social reforms.

“Be sure that I and the French government are determined to match the reforms conducted under your authority with an ever deeper cooperation,” he said in the message.

France was Algeria’s colonial ruler before being forced to give up control in 1962 after a devastating war. The two countries now maintain close ties, and a significant number of France’s estimated five million Muslim residents come from Algeria.

Chirac’s last trip to Algeria was a state visit in March last year, during which he and Boutelflika signed an agreement to forge closer relations.

                                                                 Subject: French news