Veteran Algeria opposition leader steps down at 86

Updated 22 December 2012
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Veteran Algeria opposition leader steps down at 86

ALGIERS: Veteran Algerian dissident Hocine Ait Ahmed is to step down as leader of the Socialist Forces Front which he has led since founding it in 1963, he said in a letter obtained by AFP yesterday.
Ait Ahmed, 86, is the sole surviving member of the nationalist leadership that launched the war for independence from French colonial rule on Nov. 1, 1954.
“The time has come for me to pass the baton. I will not present myself for the party leadership next year,” he wrote in the letter to the party’s national council which met in Algiers on Friday.
But he pledged to continue to “listen to the activists and militants and to remain in close contact with the ethics committee and the national secretariat.”
Born on Aug. 20, 1926 in Ain El-Hamman in the Kabylie region, east of the capital, Ait Ahmed was elected to Algeria’s first post-independence parliament but fell out with president Ahmed Ben Bella and founded the FFS to lead an uprising against his rule.
He was arrested in 1964 and sentenced to death but later pardoned.
He escaped in April 1966 to settle in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he lived in exile for 23 years before returning to Algiers in December 1989.
In July 1992, shortly after the outbreak of Algeria’s devastating civil war, he went back into exile, from where he was a leading champion of dialogue with the Islamist opposition.
In January 1995, he signed the Sant’Egidio agreement with the Islamic Salvation Front in Rome.
He had planned to stand for president in 1999 but he and five other candidates withdrew alleging fraud.
He still lives in Switzerland. The FFS holds 27 seats in the 462-member national assembly.


Russia says US building ‘visa wall’ after Bolshoi dancers denied entry

Updated 29 min 19 sec ago
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Russia says US building ‘visa wall’ after Bolshoi dancers denied entry

  • The Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the United States’ decision to refuse visas to Russian prima ballerina Olga Smirnova and soloist dancer Jacopo Tissi.
  • Russian Foreign Ministry: “They are trying to fence off Americans from Russians with a visa wall, as we’ve said before, making trips of our citizens to the USA practically impossible.”

MOSCOW: Russia said on Saturday the United States was trying to fence off Russians with a “visa wall” after two Bolshoi ballet dancers were refused visas to perform in New York.
The Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the United States’ decision to refuse visas to Russian prima ballerina Olga Smirnova and soloist dancer Jacopo Tissi, who were due to perform at a Lincoln Center gala.
“This did not happen even during the Cold War,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.
“But today, influential forces in the USA, preoccupied with trying to pressure Russia hard, do not stop at anything... They are trying to fence off Americans from Russians with a visa wall, as we’ve said before, making trips of our citizens to the USA practically impossible,” it said.
Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre said it could not comment because it did not organize the tour and had no information on the visa applications.
“Since the work visa was also not issued on time for Jacopo Tissi, an Italian national, we would like to think that this was related to procedural formalities and not to the current political tensions,” its press office said in emailed comments.
The US embassy in Moscow did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
On Friday, Kremlin said the United States was deliberately making it difficult for Aeroflot crews to obtain US visas, after the Russian foreign ministry said it could not rule out the possibility that flights between the two countries might have to be halted because of the situation.