Italy's foreign minister visits Algeria for talks on cooperation

Italy's foreign minister met with Algerian authorities on Monday to discuss economic cooperation, U.N. Security Council reform and other issues.Terrorism and illegal immigration were also on the agenda for Gianfranco Fini's talks with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, officials in the North African nation said. Algeria, which currently has a rotating seat on the Security Council, backs the African Union's proposal to give the continent two permanent seats with veto power.

The visit was meant to confirm Italy's support for actions aimed at "bringing the country out of the crisis which began in the 1990s and carry on with political and economic reforms," according to a statement from Fini's ministry, the AP reports.

Algerians voted overwhelmingly in September to approve a peace plan granting amnesty to Islamic insurgents, part of efforts to turn the page on 13 years of violence that Bouteflika has said has left an estimated 150,000 dead.

The insurgency erupted in 1992 when the army canceled a second round of voting in multiparty legislative elections to thwart a likely victory by a now-banned Muslim fundamentalist party. Algeria has opened up to the outside world in recent years as the insurgency eased, and Italy is a leading trade partner. Rich in natural gas, Algeria had exports - mainly hydrocarbons - of Ђ2.833 billion ($3.31 billion) to Italy in the first half of 2005, up nearly 22 percent from the same period last year. A gas line links the two countries via Tunisia. A.M.

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