Algerian President condemns French

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika offered a scathing critique of a what he said amounted to France's "nostalgia" over its colonial past Wednesday, accusing the French government of "blindness".

Responding to a law voted by the French Parliament in late February, whose stated aims included recognizing the "positive role of the French presence overseas, notably in North Africa" in national school curricula, Bouteflika refuted the notion that colonialism may have been beneficial in some ways.

"It is difficult to not feel revolted by the law (...) which represents a mental blindness bordering on revisionism and negationism", he said.

Bouteflika, elected head of the Algerian government in 1999, called colonialism "one of the biggest crimes against humanity that history has known."

The French government has yet to issue a statement in response to the critique, which was pronounced during a speech given in the Western city of Tlemcen. Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the General Union of Muslim Algerian Students, an association created in 1955 during the Franco-Algerian war.

Bouteflika's comments come in the midst of a period when relations between Algeria and France were thawing, after decades of mutual tension. Last year, French President Jacques Chirac made a historic visit to the North-African country-- a first since Algeria won its independence in 1962. Plans were being drafted for a "Friendship Treaty" to be signed before the end of this year.

The treaty appears to be menaced by the current polemic.

"Though our country was ready to sign a treaty of peace and friendship with the French state based on the equality and shared interests of our nations, it could by no means approve, even in silence, a so-called 'civilizing mission'," said Bouteflika.

Souces: AFP and Le Monde