'Islamists contact Algiers'

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Algiers (AFP) - Leaders of the banned Islamic Salvation Front have contacted the Algerian government about resuming a dialogue on ending the fundamentalist rebellion, state-run television claimed yesterday, quoting government sources.

However, it did not identify the Islamic leaders or say how the government responded.

The television channel made the announcement in a special commentary in which it denied newspaper reports that the government was already in negotiations with the Islamic Salvation Front.

Islamic fundamentalists began their insurrection after the army intervened to cancel January 1992 elections that the now-banned Front was poised to win. The US State Department estimates that the violence has left 30,000 people dead.

Earlier, the interior minister hinted that the government may allow banned fundamentalists to take part in this year's planned presidential election. But Abderrahmane Meziane-Cherif, in an interview in the French paper Le Journal du Dimanche, would not say explicitly whether the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front would be allowed to participate.