Algerian leader arrives in London

Algerian leader arrives in London

July 11, 2006 16:09 – (SA)

LONDON – Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has arrived for the first official visit to Britain by an Algerian head of state since the North African state won its independence from France in 1962.

He was scheduled to call on Queen Elizabeth II before going to Downing Street for talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair which are expected to focus on fighting global terrorism.

Several agreements on judicial co-operation are to be signed during the visit, officials said.

But despite lengthy discussions, no deal has been found on deporting 15 Algerian nationals, detained in Britain as terrorism suspects, that Blair’s government wants to send home in return for a formal « memorandum of understanding » stating they will not be mistreated.

« The discussions continue, » a Home Office spokesman said, while Algerian embassy spokesman Rabah Toubal said Algiers would prefer deportations to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Broader agreements on deporting terrorism suspects are already in place with Jordan, Lebanon and Libya.

The agreements to be signed later Tuesday represent what Toubal called « classic » arrangements already in place with several other nations, dealing with co-operation on judicial, penal, deportation and extradition matters.

Two Algerians suspected of links to terrorism, publicly known only as V and I, agreed to be deported to Algeria in mid-June after renouncing their right to appeal their continued detention.

They were questioned for several days by Algerian authorities upon their return, before they were allowed to join their families, a British foreign ministry spokesman said.

On Monday, the London-based human rights group Amnesty International denounced the ongoing use of torture and mistreatment by the Algerian security services, and urged foreign governments not to forcibly deport Algerians who might face such brutal treatment.