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French PM Valls in Algeria, "regrets" visa snub of 2 journalists

French PM Valls in Algeria, "regrets" visa snub of 2 journalists

Algeria

France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Saturday he had “deep regrets” over Algeria’s refusal to issue visas to two French journalists in a row following the “Panama Papers” revelations.

“I will bring up this point with friendship and frankness” while feeling “deep regrets” over the decision, Valls tweeted before arriving in Algiers accompanied by several cabinet ministers.

“We share a common vision on many subjects, including Libya,” Valls told reporters after being welcomed by Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal.

We will work together in the next few hours. We are here because friendship between Algeria and France is above minor problems.

“We will work together in the next few hours. We are here because friendship between Algeria and France is above minor problems,” he added in an apparent reference to the visa row.

The journalists from Le Monde newspaper and television show Le Petit Journal on Canal+ were to have covered Valls’ visit, during which economic accords are expected to be signed.

Several French media outlets decided to boycott the trip in protest at Algeria’s decision, including Le Monde’s rival newspapers Liberation and Le Figaro, as well as public radio stations France Inter and France Culture.

On Wednesday, Algiers summoned French Ambassador Bernard Emie to complain about a “hostile campaign” against the North African nation by French media following the Panama Papers leak.

Le Monde was one of a large group of papers worldwide to publish stories after the leak of millions of financial records showing how Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca had helped firms and wealthy individuals set up offshore companies.

On Tuesday, it published a front-page photo of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika before later clarifying that his name does not appear in the Panama Papers.

It was not immediately clear why Algeria refused to grant a visa to Le Petit Journal, but the satirical show has frequently reported on the health of 78-year-old Bouteflika.

Valls spoke to Sellal earlier in the week to try to get the ban lifted, but without success, a source close to the French premier said. Around 20 media outlets had been accredited to cover Valls’ visit to France’s former colony.

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, who is accompanying Valls, is expected to meet his influential Algerian counterpart Abdesselam Bouchouareb.

Le Monde has also reported, citing the Panama Papers, that Bouchouareb had an offshore company established in Panama in Apr 2015.

It said that the company’s mission was to “manage a portfolio of real estate assets in the amount of US$800,000.”