President Bouteflika tells Algerians they have 'no reason' to worry

A weary and visibly weakened &to=' target=_blank>President Abdelaziz Bouteflika insisted Algerians "have no reason to be worried" about his health, after he emerged Saturday from a three-week hospital stay that was shrouded in secrecy.

Clearly struggling to speak, Bouteflika addressed Algerians in an interview broadcast on state television just hours after leaving Val de Grace military hospital in Paris where he was taken for stomach bleeding.

"Are the Algerian people a little worried?" Bouteflika asked an interviewer from an unidentified Paris residence. Answering his own question, he said: "The people have no reason to be worried."

Flanking the president, Bouteflika's personal physician Dr. Messaoud Zitouni said he was "completely healed" after surgery that lasted "no more than an hour." He did not say when the operation had taken place, or when Bouteflika might return home.

Rumors about Bouteflika's health swirled after the 68-year-old North African leader was admitted to the Paris hospital on Nov. 26 with an unspecified gastrointestinal problem.

The only statement published during Bouteflika's hospitalization was a Dec. 5 medical bulletin that said he had undergone a successful operation for a bleeding stomach ulcer.

"We have nothing to hide," Bouteflika said. "We have said everything in total clarity and in full transparency."

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