Algeria pulls out of Chirac meeting

MARY DEJEVSKY

Paris

DAVID USBORNE

New York

A full-scale diplomatic row broke out last night between Algeria and France after Algiers abruptly announced the cancellation of President Liamine Zeroual's planned meeting with President Jacques Chirac at the United Nations, accusing France of "attacking the dignity and sovereignty of the Algerian people".

No reason was given for the sudden cancellation of the meeting, scheduled to take place in New York on the fringes of the UN's three-day 50th anniversary celebrations, which began yesterday. However, it was reported to be President Zeroual who requested that it be called off.

The meeting had been the subject of fierce political controversy in France, and outrage among Islamic militants in Algeria, since it was made public two weeks ago. It had also prompted a heavy reinforcement of security across France, with 2,500 extra troops being deployed on the streets following a threat from an Algerian Islamic terrorist group to continue its bomb attacks unless the meeting was halted.

It had been expected that the pair would meet discreetly at the New York hotel at which both are staying during the celebration, but Mr Chirac said Mr Zeroual had "decided to request a postponement" at the last moment "because of a failure to agree on its modalities".

He said that on his arrival in New York "we were informed that the Algerian side was insisting very much that this meeting should have media publicity, that it take place under the gaze of cameras and photographers". Mr Chirac said he was unable to meet this demand."I considered this meeting as a conversation with the Algerian head of state, but since the election campaign has begun in Algeria, I did not want there to be any ambiguity," he said.

Before leaving Paris, Mr Chirac had undertaken that the meeting would be low-key, and without television cameras, in an attempt to counter criticism that it would imply French support for Mr Zeroual in next month's Algerian presidential election.

The language from Algiers yesterday was virulent. A presidential spokesman was quoted as saying that the meeting "has lost its purpose".

Alluding to France's colonial inheritance and history of interference in Algeria since the country's independence, the spokesman denounced "the persistence of unilateralist attitudes" and the "escalation of public remarks that can be seen as an attack on the dignity and sovereignty of the Algerian people".

In a detail that will be particularly unwelcome to Mr Chirac, the Algerian spokesman said the meeting had actually been proposed by the French foreign minister, Herve de Charette, who categorically denied this yesterday. French officials insisted that the meeting had been "requested" by Mr Zeroual and that Mr Chirac had been left with little choice but to accept without precipitating a diplomatic incident.

The cancellation of the meeting by Algeria leaves Mr Chirac in the worst possible diplomatic position. He had weathered a storm of criticism at home and abroad which accused him variously of consorting with the leader of a repressive regime, favouring Mr Zeroual's candidacy in the coming presidential election, behaving as a colonial power, and interfering in Algeria's internal affairs.

In recent days he mounted a concerted damage-limitation exercise, saying he would present the Algerian leader with the French point of view and would argue that the coming elections should be seen to be "fair and democratic". Now, it appears, all that effort was for nothing; Mr Chirac has been made to look weak, and his diplomacy to appear disastrous.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Digital Content Manager,Leicester

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Charter Selection: Leading Nationwide and important...

SAP FICO Trainer

Negotiable: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently seeking a SAP FICO Trainer...

Commercial IP Solicitor - Oxford

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: OXFORDSHIRE - COMMERCIAL IP /IT - We ...

Sales Director, Edgeware, Middlesex

£55 - £70K OTE £120k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major multi-million pound la...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor