Algeria appeals to U.S. for systems to combat insurgents

Friday, January 24, 2003

CAIRO Algeria has pressed the United States for the sale of combat military systems to help fight Islamic insurgents.

Officials said Algeria has asked for lethal systems that would help Algerian troops locate and target insurgents in all times and weather. They said the heavy casualties inflicted on the military reflects Algeria's lack of night-vision and all-weather equipment.

The Sawt Al Ahrar daily, published by the ruling National Liberation Front, reported that the military has prepared an offensive against Islamic insurgents based on the expectation that Algeria would receive "advanced weapons from Washington within the next few days." The daily did not describe the weapons.

The Algerian request would allow the military's helicopters, armored vehicles and aircraft to perform night missions in the mountainous regions of eastern Algeria. Officials said the equipment would include command, control and communications systems as well as sensors and night-vision sights.

The United States has acknowledged selling a range of non-lethal military equipment to Algeria. These include ground control radars for civil aviation, small aircraft for border security, spare parts for C-130 aircraft, radios and Humvee military vehicles.

The Bush administration has also approved the export of night-vision goggles for the Algerian army. But officials said the goggles have not yet been delivered.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher again reviewed Washington's help to Algiers to fight Islamic insurgents. Boucher said the United States plans to increase military aid to Algiers in fiscal 2003.

The aid would amount to $550,000 and focus on training Algerian soldiers in English language kills and officer courses. Boucher said 41 Algerian soldiers will be enrolled in the programs.

"Algeria has also on occasion asked to purchase military equipment from the United States," Boucher said. "We evaluate those requests on a case-by-case basis in light of U.S. interests. No exports of lethal equipment have been approved."

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