U.S. praises Algerian elections

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

CAIRO Algeria expects fresh shipments of lethal weapons from the United States in wake of the re-election of President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika. Bouteflika was re-elected by 83 percent of the electorate on Thursday, the Interior Ministry said. The president's opponent, former Prime Minister Ali Benflis, won eight percent.

"Election-day processes were generally transparent and free from fraud," State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said. "I think the Algerian people should be congratulated on having conducted this election in a peaceful and relatively transparent way."

Officials said the U.S. determination would pave the way for the first deliveries of lethal weapons. They said the first such weapons could arrive over the next month.

A spokesman for Benflis said his candidate would protest the election results, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said 59 percent of Algeria's 18 million registered voters cast their ballots.

Algerian officials said the North African state has made significant progress in fighting the Islamic insurgency. They said that aid from France and the United States would allow for enhanced night operations by the military against the Salafist Brigade for Combat and Call, regarded as the main Islamic insurgency group. On Thursday, French President Jacques Chirac was expected to arrive in Algiers in a show of support for Bouteflika.

"We now have less than 1,000 Islamic fighters in all Algeria, while we were fighting close to 25,000 in 1994 and 1995," Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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