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European Union

The states of the European Union publicly supported what political leaders termed the reconciliation policies of President Bouteflika but said little about human rights violations or the problem of impunity. An E.U. ministerial "troika" comprising External Affairs Minister Chris Patten, Common Foreign and Security Policy High Representative Javier Solana, and Finnish Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen, visited Algiers in November 1999. A fifth round of negotiations on the E.U.-Algeria Association Agreement took place in July, but there were no signs that a final agreement was near.

President Bouteflika made his first foreign visit as president to Italy in November 1999. According to Radio Algiers, when asked at a press conference about investigations into responsibility for killings, he replied that, "politics are one thing and history another. Now I am extinguishing a fire and tackling political issues, with priority given to the present." He visited France in June 2000, the first official visit by an Algerian head of state for seventeen years and only the second since Algeria's independence in 1962. France agreed in principle to a debt-for-equity exchange which would convert a small portion of Algeria's U.S. $3.4 billion debt- Ffr400 million (U.S. $58 million)-into private investments by French companies. French and Italian warships paid official visits to Algeria over the course of the last year.

During Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar's visit to Algiers in July, the Spanish daily El Pais reported that Madrid was inclined to look favorably on Algeria's request for help in training its security forces. The newspaper reported also that Algeria had requested action be taken against Islamist "fundamentalists" residing in Spain.

Qatar confirmed British media reports in July that £4.6 (U.S. $6.65) million worth of British military equipment that it had purchased was destined for Algeria. The Qatari purchase order to BAe (formerly British Aerospace) had specified that, as directed by its ruler, Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifah Al Thani, Qatar would forward the equipment freely as a gift "to the armed services of the state of Algeria." The equipment included Landrover Defender rapid deployment vehicles and night vision equipment.

According to a U.S. Congressional Research Service study of arms transfers released in August, Algeria took deliveries of U.S. $600 million worth of arms from European countries other than the U.K., France, Germany, and Italy in the 1996-1999 period. During that same period, Russia delivered U.S. $400 million and China sent U.S. $100 million worth of arms to Algeria.

United States

The United States quietly but publicly supported President Bouteflika's political initiatives and his efforts to privatize the state-dominated economy. Commenting on the Civil Harmony Law in late January, Ambassador Cameron Hume told the Chicago Tribune that "Algerians are the ones who have to forgive and forget. Every country has to find its own way. We allowed the people of Northern Ireland, and Turkey and South Africa to do this." He added, "If it [the law and the pardon] works for them, I'll respect it," but failed to make clear that grave offenses such as crimes against humanity should not be covered by an amnesty. Hume was quoted in the Algiers daily El Watan on June 21 as saying that "the United States is in the best position to encourage positive change in Algeria, together with and not in competition with its European allies."

Signs of growing U.S. economic interest in Algeria included visits by leading private U.S.-based international banks and investment houses such as Chase Manhattan to Algiers in June 2000, a month that also saw a visit by Under Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Eizenstat. U.S. private investments in Algeria were estimated at between U.S. $3.5 and $4 billion, almost entirely in oil and gas exploration and production. Many of these investments were backed by the U.S. Export-Import Bank, whose chairman, James Harmon, visited Algiers in December and whose $1.6 billion exposure in Algeria was by far the bank's largest in any Middle Eastern or North African country. Following Harmon's visit thebank announced that it had eliminated the previous U.S. $2 billion ceiling on Export-Import financing in Algeria. According to Algerian press reports, Eizenstat told Algerian officials and heads of companies that U.S. private investments outside of hydrocarbon industries would depend on the creation of a North African free trade area with Tunisia and Morocco.

The U.S. also pursued closer military ties with Algeria. There were several visits by high-level military officers following the September 1999 visit of Vice-Admiral Daniel Murphy, commander of the U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet. Admiral Charles Abbot, deputy commander of U.S. armed forces in Europe, met with President Bouteflika and army chief of staff Maj. Gen. Mohamed Lamari on April 24 and reportedly discussed setting up a permanent joint military program. Maj.Gen. Randall Schmidt, director of aerospace operations for the U.S. Air Force in Europe, met with Algerian military and defense officials in late July in Algiers.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ronald Neumann, commenting on the text of President Bouteflika's remarks on human rights at a cabinet meeting in mid-March, wrote to Algerian ambassador Idriss Jazairy on March 24 expressing support for the president's "determination to strengthen the rights of individuals in detention and in preventive custody" and "his proposals to reinforce control by the judiciary of the criminal investigative branch of the police services." The text of the letter appeared in the May 7 edition of the government daily El Moudjahid.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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