By AOMAR OUALI and ELAINE GANLEY
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) â¿¿ French President Francois Hollande announced a new era with Algeria on Wednesday â¿¿ a strategic partnership among equals â¿¿ during a state visit to this North African nation that was once a prized colony in the French empire.
The Socialist president's visit comes as Algeria celebrates 50 years of independence following a brutal seven-year war that ended 132 years of colonial rule.
French ties with the gas-rich nation have been fraught with tension since its independence in 1962. Large numbers of Algerians, and some political parties, have been seeking an apology from France for inequalities suffered by the population under colonial rule and for brutality during the war."What I want is a strategic partnership between France and Algeria, treating each other as equals, that lets us enter this new era," Holland said at a news conference after a meeting with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. French officials had said the two-day trip was aimed at establishing mutually beneficial economic ties with Algeria to replace a relationship strained by a bitter past. Hollande said this would allow France and Algeria to not only turn a page but "to write so many others." Algeria, where unemployment among the young soars, is a land of promise for French industry. France is Algeria's No. 1 trading partner but Algeria is only fourth on France's list. Hollande officially announced an accord for the French automaker Renault to build a factory in Algeria with cars destined for all of Africa. The joint venture will be 49 percent owned by Renault and 51 percent by two Algerian companies, according to a statement by Renault, the first carmaker to establish production facilities in Algeria. The factory will be located outside Oran, a port city west of Algiers, and eventually expand to an automotive training center.