Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is in Paris for what authorities are calling a routine medical checkup. There is new diplomatic tension between France and Algeria, its former colony.
Algerian authorities are downplaying Mr. Bouteflika's medical visit to France. A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday it had been anticipated for some time. The Algerian president underwent surgery in November for what was described as a bleeding stomach ulcer.
But there has been long-standing speculation about his health, including rumors Mr. Bouteflika is suffering from cancer. Mr. Bouteflika arrived Wednesday under a shroud of secrecy. His visit was disclosed by far-right French leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Mr. Bouteflika's visit follows tough remarks by the Algerian President concerning France's colonial past. A few days ago, he described more than a century of French rule over Algeria as a genocide of his country's identity.
Mr. Bouteflika has made other harsh remarks in the past. Last August, he called for France to admit it killed and tortured during its colonial rule. That rule ended in 1962, following a bloody war of independence.
And during a visit to Algiers a few days ago, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy was reportedly unsuccessful in hashing out details of a hoped-for French-Algerian friendship treaty.
Former Algerian Prime Minister Redha Malek says many obstacles remain before such a treaty can be sealed.
In a recent interview on Radio France International, Mr. Malek says promises of French investment in Algeria remain unrealized. And many Algerians are finding it increasingly harder to obtain visas to go to France.
French-Algerian relations were rocky before Mr. Bouteflika came to power, in 1999. They later warmed up after Mr. Bouteflika paid a landmark visit to France in 2000. Three years later, French President Jacques Chirac paid the first state visit of a French leader to Algeria since the country's independence.