- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2001

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said yesterday that the deaths of 100,000 people in his country during a decade of Islamic terror "absolutely" stemmed from the same Afghan war against the Soviets as anti-American terrorism elsewhere.
"There is no doubt we have a common problem," Mr. Bouteflika said in an interview with The Washington Times.
He said that "90 percent" of the violent attacks by the Islamists have now been contained. But in 1990s, they killed 100,000 Algerians and caused $20 billion in economic loses.
The Islamic terrorists in Algeria, just like Osama bin Laden and others who have been accused of attacking U.S. targets, such as American embassies in East Africa, were spinoffs from the Afghan fight against the Soviet Union from 1980 to 1990, said the Algerian leader.
Speaking in French on the first visit to Washington by an Algerian head of state in more than 15 years, Mr. Bouteflika said that President Clinton sent him a letter after Algerian terrorist Ahmed Ressam was arrested crossing the border from Canada in 1999 with a car loaded with explosives intended to bomb the 2000 New Year's celebrations in the United States.
"President Clinton said after the Ressam case that it is now certain we and you in Algeria are fighting the same terrorism," he said.
If Algeria has been able to reduce the violent attacks by Islamic terrorists seeking to overthrow the secular state and establish an Islamic state, it has recently faced a new uprising by ethnic Berbers seeking recognition of their culture and language.
The president recognized that recent Berber protests, which have led to clashes with police, as well as some of the Islamic violence, are partly attributed to unemployment.
He said that Algeria flirted with socialism for many years and then tried economic liberalism. But the country was badly managed and suffered from a stultifying bureaucracy that has resisted change.
He noted that to comply with International Monetary Fund requirements the salaries had remained largely stagnant but prices went up as much as 10 times, creating social unrest.
During his visit to Washington, Mr. Bouteflika met with President Bush Thursday and yesterday signed an agreement to expand trade and investment, which is already a substantial $3.6 billion in the oil and gas sector.
Algeria is the second-largest exporter of gas and petroleum in the Arab world, just behind Saudi Arabia. Its two-way trade with the United States is $4 billion a year.
The agreement signed yesterday by the Algerian president and by U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick will eliminate some non-tariff barriers to trade.
Algeria's relations with Morocco have been strained for many years owing to backing by Algiers of the Polisario, a movement fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish possession taken over by Morocco.
The Polisario in 1976 proclaimed the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic, which was granted membership by the Organization of African Unity, triggering a Moroccan walkout.
Asked if Algeria would drop its support for the Polisario army, which is based at Tindouf in Algeria, bordering the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, Mr. Bouteflika was not encouraging.
"People have a right to decide — if the [Saharans] decide freely to become Moroccans, we'd be the first to support them," he said. "But if they chose another option, we have to recognize it."

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