Putin to visit Algeria March 10

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Russian media earlier reported that a $4-billion arms contract package with Algeria, the biggest in post-Soviet history, would be finalized after Putin's visit.

MOSCOW, March 9 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Algeria Friday at the invitation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the Kremlin press service said Thursday.

Russian media earlier reported that a $4-billion arms contract package with Algeria, the biggest in post-Soviet history, would be finalized after Putin's visit. The deal would enable Russian defense enterprises to function for several years.

A source close to Rosoboronexport, Russia's main national arms exporter, told Thursday's issue of respected business daily Vedomosti that contracts for the delivery of 40 MiG-29SMT Fulcrum fighters, 20 Su-30 MK Flanker fighters, 16 Yak-130 Mitten combat trainers, eight battalions of S-300 PMU2 Favorite air defense systems and 40 T-90 main battle tanks had already been initialed.

The Algerian army has bought weapons from the Soviet Union, Russia and other former republics, since Algeria gained independence in 1962.

"It seems that Algeria, which bought $10 billion worth of Soviet weaponry from 1962 to 1991, will now implement a rearmament program with Russian assistance," Marat Kenzhetayev, an analyst with the Center for Arms Control in Moscow, also told Vedomosti. "However, Russian arms deliveries were under $500 million in the 1990s and totaled about $100 million per year after 2000."

The two presidents are also expected to discuss Algeria's debt to Moscow, which some experts estimate at more than $4 billion.

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