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Paris-Algiers Air Service Resumes - 2002-01-21

For the first time in almost a decade, there is regular commercial air service from Paris to Algiers. The flights by a new French carrier called Air Lib are a sign that, after years of civil war, Algeria is becoming a safer destination.

The first Air Lib flight bound for Algiers departed from Paris' Orly airport at eight o'clock in the morning. A return flight is scheduled for later in the day. Although the first plane was only one-third full, the new French airline is confident enough about future demand that it has scheduled twice-daily flights between Paris and Algiers.

Beyond business concerns, the new service to Algiers is symbolically important. Commercial French flights to Algeria stopped altogether after the hijacking of an Air France Airbus by Algerian extremists in 1994. French commandos stormed the hijacked plane in Marseilles. But the incident, which left three passengers dead, underscored fears that Algeria was a dangerous place during the country's bloody civil war in the 1990s.

Business and political relations are now growing between Paris and Algiers with the encouragement of leaders from both sides. In December, President Jacques Chirac became the first French leader to visit Algeria in 12 years. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika visited Paris the previous year.

Also, since the September 11 attacks on the United States, Algeria's cooperation with the war against terrorism has been welcomed by the West. But lingering fears of terrorism, along with continuing violence in Algeria, may affect Air Lib's business to Algiers.

Until now, Air Algerie has accounted for most of the air travel between France and Algeria, although a French company offered charter service for just a few months last year.