U.S. requests basing rights in Algeria

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

CAIRO The United States has asked Algeria for military basing rights.

Algerian government sources said the Algerian Defense Ministry and the U.S. Defense Department are discussing basing rights for U.S. aircraft and troops in Algeria. The sources said the discussions do not include the prospect of a permanent U.S. military presence in the North African state.

On Sunday, the Algerian Le Quotidien d'Oran daily reported that the United States wants to employ Algerian military bases for counter-insurgency missions and the protection of oil interests in North Africa. The daily said the United States, which will not operate the bases, has agreed to use the facilities only in case of emergency, Middle East Newsline reported.

The sources said Algeria is one of several countries approached by the United States for basing rights. They said the United States has also discussed the issue with Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

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Algeria and the United States have increased defense and security relations over the last two years. Washington has approved the sale of non-lethal military equipment to Algiers and the two countries have conducted naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, largely within the framework of NATO.

The two countries have also expanded their intelligence exchange in the U.S.-led war against Al Qaida. Algeria is said to have provided information on Al Qaida operatives in North Africa and offered to extradite suspects.

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