LONDON Ñ NATO has designated Algeria as its most promising partner
in the Middle East region.
Officials said NATO plans to use Algeria as a model for cooperation
between the Western alliance and the Mediterranean Dialogue starting in
2005. They said Algeria has agreed to begin training and other programs with
NATO as part of a process to ensure interoperability and common language.
The first stage in the Algerian-NATO partnership, officials said, would
be in the field of counter-insurgency, Middle East Newsline reported.
The officials said NATO could benefit from an
intelligence exchange and other cooperation with Algeria in the battle
against Al Qaida and related groups.
"Just see how they have defeated terrorism," NATO secretary-general Jaap
de Hoop Scheffer said. "We have a lot to talk about."
Addressing an audience in Algiers on Nov. 25, De Hoop Scheffer said NATO
was ready to expand its relations with Algeria. He cited plans to modernize
the Algerian army and provide training and instruction.
"My presence in Algiers is an additional sign of the beginning of a new
dynamic in relations between NATO and the countries of the Mediterranean,"
the NATO secretary-general said. "New policies are being developed, because
we have understood that cooperation is the only means of moving forward."
On Tuesday, Algeria and France began a three-day naval exercise in the
western Mediterranean. The exercise was conducted within the framework of
So far, officials said, Algeria has not relayed formal agreement to
launch many of the programs offered by NATO. Officials said the 26-member
alliance wanted Algeria to expand naval cooperation, engage in defense and
military reform and conduct a wide-based intelligence exchange on Islamic
In his address, De Hoop Scheffer acknowledged the opposition by Algeria
and other prospective Middle East partners to NATO policies. They include
the alliance's support for the U.S.-led military presence in Iraq.
"There is much at stake and common challenges tying us together for us
to let our future cooperation become hostage to this conflict," De Hoop
Scheffer said. "We must move forward."
Officials said De Hoop Scheffer would visit all seven members of the
Mediterranean Dialogue, established in 1994. They include Algeria, Egypt,
Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. Officials said many of the
Arab states in the dialogue have shunned cooperation with NATO because it
has meant including Israel.
In his address, De Hoop Scheffer asserted that the resolution of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a priority for Middle East stability and
security in the region. The NATO chief, referring to the death of
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, said he was optimistic.
"And certain recent developments make me more optimistic about the
future," De Hoop Scheffer said.
For his part, Algerian Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Belkhadem said
Algeria would cooperate with NATO. He cited plans for joint training,
operations, peace-keeping and the relay of defense technologies to the North