French president in Algeria discusses terrorism, economy

AP News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2015 1:24 PM
French president in Algeria discusses terrorism, economy

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — French President Francois Hollande made a seven-hour visit to Algeria on Monday for talks on security issues, calling the fight against terrorism a "common battle."

France's economic partnership with Algerian authorities also was being discussed during separate visits with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria's 78-year-old leader, and Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal.

Hollande said the issues that France and Algeria, its former colony, are working on include security and "security is fighting terrorism."

Algeria shares borders with both chaotic Libya and with Mali, where France intervened in 2013 to rout al-Qaida-linked militants controlling the vast north.

"I ... want to highlight the common fight against ... this terrible and implacable enemy, to which we have struck a blow, even just in the past hours," Hollande said, referring to reports that Algerian extremist Mokhbar Belmokhtar was among 17 killed over the weekend by U.S. airstrikes in eastern Libya.

Belmokhtar claimed responsibility for a gas plant attack in Algeria in 2013 that left at least 35 hostages dead.

In a rare concession to France, Algeria had let French fighter planes overfly its territory to intervene in Mali to uproot militants like Belmokhtar, who was widely thought to have fled to Libya, along with other fighters chased from Mali.

Bouteflika, who is in poor health, has been almost totally absent since his April 2013 stroke, yet was re-elected in April for a fourth term. The French presidency denied any involvement in Algeria's internal politics and the pending succession battle.

Libya is also where tens of thousands of migrants have been leaving in smugglers' boats to try to cross the Mediterranean and get into Europe.