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Algerian president criticizes government minister's remarks about "Jewish lobby"

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika didn't support a government minister's remarks about a "Jewish lobby" backing French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In a phone conversation with Sarkozy, the Algerian leader said the comments by the country's minister for veterans, Mohamed Chedif Abbas, did "not reflect anything about Algeria's position," Sarkozy's spokesman David Martinon said.

Bouteflika called relations between the two countries "essential," and said Sarkozy would be "received as a friend" during his three-day visit to Algeria next week, Martinon said.

Bouteflika had already played down Abbas' remarks, telling Algeria's state news agency APS that only the president and foreign minister were authorized to comment on foreign policy matters, and that Abbas had spoken in his name only.

Abbas was quoted Monday in the daily El Khabar as saying that Sarkozy was brought to power by a "Jewish lobby that has a monopoly on French industry." Abbas also mentioned Sarkozy's "roots," an apparent reference to the French president's maternal grandfather, who was Jewish.

On Wednesday, Abbas told APS that he "never had the intention .... of attacking the image of a foreign head of state." He did not deny making the comments.

In the original interview, Abbas also demanded that France repent for its past actions in Algeria.

The Dec. 3-5 visit will be Sarkozy's second to Algeria, the former jewel in France's colonial crown, since his election in May.

Relations between the two countries have been strained in recent years, particularly since France's parliament passed a law in 2005 noting the "positive" effects of colonialism. The language was later removed, but a long-awaited friendship treaty between the two countries remains stalled.

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