Algeria's prime minister, reacting to reports that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seriously ill, said the 76-year-old was recovering in France but had been ordered to take complete rest by his doctors.
Since he was rushed to hospital in Paris on April 27 with what was officially described as a minor stroke, Bouteflika has been neither heard nor seen in public, raising widespread speculation that he is seriously ailing.
France's Le Point magazine said Bouteflika, who was treated for cancer in 2005, was in very poor health, with some of his vital functions damaged. Algerian newspaper editor Hichem Aboud said he was in a deep coma and had been brought back to Algeria.
Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said that after being treated at the Val-de-Grace military hospital in Paris, Bouteflika was convalescing in France and continued to follow the affairs of state on a daily basis.
“The president, whose survival has never been questioned and whose health is improving every day, has been required by his doctors to take complete rest in order to make a full recovery,” the Algerian Press Service quoted Sellal as saying.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot also said Bouteflika was in France, but declined to give further details, including whether he was still at Val-de-Grace hospital.
Sellal said that false reports by some foreign media on Bouteflika threatened Algeria's development and security.
“The illness of President Bouteflika will soon be no more than a bad memory,” he said.
Algeria is due to hold a presidential election in April 2014 and were Bouteflika to disappear from the political scene before that, authorities would have to scramble to find an alternative candidate and the constitutional means of running the country until then.
Algeria has been run with Soviet-style secrecy for decades by an elite drawn largely from men who fought in the war of independence against France from 1954 to 1962.
Bouteflika, who first became president in 1999, is among the last of that generation, who retain a tradition of secrecy dating back to their fear of betrayal during their time as insurgents.