Saudi clue to Algerian truce

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The Independent Online
The Algerian President Liamine Zeroual yesterday began a visit to Saudi Arabia that could see renewed efforts to achieve a ceasefire in his country's brutal five-year civil war, which by some estimates has now taken 120,000 lives.

Officially, the military-backed regime rejects all offers of help, be they from Arab or European states, as unacceptable interference in Algeria's affairs. But as the slaughter continues on a daily basis, pressure is mounting for a peace initiative, from whatever source.

The latest atrocity, according to the tightly controlled Algerian press, came on Sunday night when "terrorists" - the standard description for Islamic guerrillas - reportedly slashed the throats of 16 civilians as they slept in the village of Sekmouna, 45 miles south of the capital Algiers.

Hours later a legendary leader of the independence struggle against the French, Hocine Ait Ahmed, said the world should not be bullied into silence by the "fascist-like" threats of the Zeroual regime. He claimed that 120,000 civilians had died since the Government cancelled 1992 elections that the fundamentalists seemed certain to win. The figure is double the previously estimated toll of 60,000.

Ait Ahmed, founder of the secular opposition Socialist Forces Front and a resident of Switzerland, said in a speech in London that the "silence and indifference of Western powers" had helped set Algeria on course "for all-out slaughter likely to assume rapidly the dimensions of genocide".