Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Algeria Sunday, in what his aides believe was the first such visit by anyone in his position. He met with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and other senior officials for what Rumsfeld called "interesting and helpful" talks. Later, Rumsfeld traveled to Morocco.
Secretary Rumsfeld says the United States wants to broaden its military relationship with Algeria. At a joint appearance with President Bouteflika outside the presidential palace, Rumsfeld declined to answer directly when asked to what extent political reform in Algeria is linked to further advancement in the U.S. Algerian military relationship.
"The United States and Algeria have a multi-faceted relationship that involves political and economic as well as military-to-military cooperation," he said. "And we very much value the cooperation we are receiving in counter-terrorism because it's important to both of our countries."
President Bouteflika did not speak at the brief appearance, and Algerian reporters did not respond when Secretary Rumsfeld invited them to ask him a question.
Later, aboard his aircraft, Rumsfeld confirmed that Algeria is interested in buying some military hardware from the United States, and the U.S. government is willing to approve some sales. But he would not give details, and he said the Algerian government is reviewing U.S. requirements for safeguards on the re-export of military technology.
The secretary said the issue came up in his talks in Algiers, but only briefly. And he said there are many ways the two countries can expand their defense cooperation other than military sales.
"We share intelligence. We cooperate in exercises," he said. "We have been able to gain insights from the Algerians about the importance of having a multi-dimensional approach to the problem of extremism. Clearly, the Iraqi situation and the Afghan situation both require multi-dimensional approaches."
Secretary Rumsfeld said the Algerian government used such an approach, involving military, political and cultural dimensions, to deal with the insurgency that plagued the country in the 1990s. It continues today, but on a much lower level. He says the government convinced the people that they would have a better future through moderation than extremism.
Rumsfeld is expected to meet with King Mohammed and other officials in Morocco on Monday before returning to Washington. As was true during his visits to Tunisia and Algeria in recent days, counter-terrorism is again expected to be a major topic of discussion.