29 October 2012

Algeria: Hillary Clinton discusses Mali, terrorism in Algiers

Photo: U.S. State Department
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shakes hands with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers, Algeria,.

The US Secretary of State met with President Bouteflika yesterday, October 29.

Hillary Clinton arrived in the Algerian capital, Algiers, yesterday October 29 on a brief visit to discuss terrorism in the Sahel and the crisis in neighbouring Mali where Islamist rebels took over the northern half of the country earlier this year, the AFP news agency reported.

The visit was part of the first session of the Algerian-US Strategic Dialogue, held on October 19 in Washington, the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. Clinton, on her second visit to the country after a trip last year, met President Bouteflika following talks with Foreign Minister, Mourad Medelci.

A State Department official aboard Clinton's plane admitted to reporters that Algeria was the strongest Sahel State and a critical partner in dealing with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, as well as being central to resolving the crisis in Mali. The Voice of America, VOA, said the talks with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika were also meant to restate America's position to back West African efforts against Islamic extremists in northern Mali.

Hillary Clinton claims AQIM is working with other extremists to undermine democratic transitions in North Africa and played a role in last month's attack on the U.S. mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Algeria shares a long border with Mali where extremists and rebel groups took over large parts of the country's north after a coup last March. Washington has launched a diplomatic offensive to secure Algeria's backing for military intervention in Mali where AQIM is among militant groups tightening their grip on the north.

The common influence among the fundamentalist armed groups ruling northern Mali is AQIM that originated in Algeria and is also active in other Sahel countries. The United Nations Security Council on October 12 approved a resolution urging West African nations to speed up preparations for an international military force of 3,000 troops that would attempt to re-conquer northern Mali.

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