US and France Prepare for Algeria Evacuation
Sheridan, Michael, The Independent (London, England)
France and the United States have quietly started to share planning and logistical information to be used in the event of a collapse of the government in Algeria, according to diplomatic sources in Paris.
The rapprochement between the two - hitherto at odds over how to deal with the fundamentalist insurrection - reflects increasing gloom in the French Foreign Ministry and the US State Department about Algeria, a key North African oil and gas producer. Both countries now favour what the French government characterises as "a dialogue with any parties that reject and renounce the use of violence".
The trouble is that the ever-strengthening Islamic guerrilla groups have no interest in such conditions, while the government angrily turned its back on the last exercise in reconciliation at a recent conference in Rome. The French general staff has since shared with senior American officers its detailed plans for the evacuation of foreign nationals from Algiers, and other coastal cities such as Oran.
Contingency plans have also been made for flying in troops temporarily to secure oil and gas installations and bring out expatriate staff. It is understood British units would be ready to join a task force set up under the provisions of the European Union's common foreign and security policy. British Gas and BP are among British companies still engaged in Algeria despite its slide into civil war and the loss of 30,000 lives.
Planning discussions have been kept low-key because of the extreme sensitivity attached to foreign military intervention in the event of a successful Islamic revolution or the complete breakdown of order in Algiers. "But I believe you can safely conclude that there have been assurances privately given to the fundamentalists that this would be a purely short-term operation and one not designed to interfere with the course of Algerian politics," a European diplomat in Paris said. …