ALGIERS: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak made a short "courtesy" visit on Sunday to Algeria’s leader, who is mourning the death of his brother, in a sign of improving ties between the North African nations.
Mubarak, accompanied by Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, met President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to express his sympathy over Mustapha Bouteflika, who died after a long illness on Friday and was buried the following day, an Egyptian official said. Mustapha Bouteflika did not hold any government post.
Algeria and Egypt had a diplomatic row late last year over ill-tempered qualification for the football World Cup, and since then investments in Algeria by Egyptian firms Orascom Telecom and Ezz Steel have hit problems.
The two leaders discussed several issues including "the enlargement of the UN Security Council and all questions of mutual interest to Algeria and Egypt as Arab and African states," APS, the Algerian news agency, quoted Mubarak as saying before his departure.
Earlier Aboul Gheit described the Egyptians’ quick trip to the Algerian capital as "a friendly visit out of courtesy", according to APS.
Mubarak then travelled to Paris, on a previously unannounced visit, for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Egypt’s state news agency said, without giving details. The Egyptian president was last in France for an Africa summit at the end of May.
Relations between Egypt and Algeria have been fraught since violence broke out around the qualifying football matches for this year’s World Cup finals.
In November, a bus carrying the Algerian team in Cairo was stoned and two players were injured. Few clashes were reported after the Cairo game. The A few days later violence erupted after a rematch in Sudan, where Egyptians said they were attacked by swarms of Algerian fans.
Meanwhile in Algeria, local Egyptian businesses and homes were attacked.
Both Egypt and Algeria called home their ambassadors for "consultations."
At about the same time, Algerian authorities presented Orascom Telecom’s profitable local mobile telephone unit, Djezzy, with a claim for $596.6 million in unpaid taxes.
The Egyptian firm later said it was in talks with South Africa’s MTN to sell Djezzy and other assets. Those talks collapsed after Algeria said it was exercising an option to buy Djezzy for itself.
An Algerian government minister said in May a $750 million deal with Ezz Steel had been frozen, in part because of the football row.
Aboul Gheit said the talks between Bouteflika and Mubarak would confirm "the strong desire of the two leaders, peoples, and governments and states to continue to develop strong relations for the defense of Arab rights and to preserve the security of the region."