Algeria seeks closer US energy ties

Mohamed Meziane, president of Algeria’s energy parastatal Sonatrach, meeting with US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman in Washington, said he wants to triple natural gas exports to the US from 4 billion to 12 billion cubic metres per year by 2015. Algeria is also seeking technical assistance from the US in developing its nuclear capabilities.

Algerian gas in the US market currently represents only 5% of US demand, estimated at 100,000 cubic metres per day. Said Meziane: “We managed to break into European markets, including the British [market], so why not other markets?” Algeria presently exports more than 50 billion cubic meters of gas to international markets, and it hopes to increase this figure to 85 billion cubic metres by 2015.

Khelil and Bodman also confirmed that Algeria and the US would sign a co-operation agreement on civilian nuclear energy early next month. Khelil said the agreement will allow for exchanges of experts at the Argentine-built Es Salam reactor in Ain Oussera, Djelfa province, and the Chinese-designed Nour reactor in Dararia, west of Algiers. The statements come after French president Nicolas Sarkozy said his country is to assist Algeria in nuclear development. (Magharebia, May 17)

The long-ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) claimed victory in Algeria’s legislative elections May 17. The party retained 136 seats in the 389-seat National People’s Assembly, short of the 177 required for a parliamentary majority, but far ahead of the two other parties in the presidential coalition. The National Rally for Democracy (RND) and the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP) took second and third place with 61 and 52 seats, respectively.

Independent lists took 33 seats, placing them in fourth place. The Workers’ Party (PT) obtained 26 seats, and the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), returing to the electoral arena after a boycott in 2002, took 19.

The election was fatal for the El Islah Movement, which took only three seats—a crushing blow after a third-place finish in 2002. The party’s poor showing has been attributed to an internal crisis on the eve of the elections, resulting in the departure of party founder Abdallah Djaballah.

But there was an unprecedentedly low turn-out. Only 36.51% of registered voters cast their ballots, compared to the 46.17% which participated in the 2002 legislative elections. But despite the low turnout, party officials spoke out in support of the election results. (Magharebia, May 18)

Abou Moussab Abdelouadoud AKA Abdelmalek Droukdel, leader of al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb called upon Algerians to boycott the elections. He called them a “comedy no different from the other comedies Algeria has seen” in a tape recording broadcast May 14 on AlJazeera. “If you take part in these elections, you will be indulging in a great sin together with these apostates,” he said. (Magharebia, May 16)

See our last post on Algeria.