MOSCOW, March 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's president will make his first-ever visit to Algeria Friday. Vladimir Putin will hold talks with his Algerian counterpart, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who visited Russia in April 2001.
Presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko said the two leaders would focus on counter-terrorism and the situation in the Middle East and Iraq, as well as key African problems. He said cooperation on energy and the military would also be on the agenda.
"We should seek new ways and forms of developing cooperation in the trade and economic and oil and gas spheres, military and technical cooperation, metallurgy, industrial and civil building, irrigation and transport infrastructure," Prikhodko said, adding that the presidents would also discuss Algeria's debt to Russia, which currently stands at $4 billion.
A Kremlin source said Russian energy giant Gazprom, whose CEO, Alexei Miller, is a member of Putin's delegation, "was interested in strategic cooperation [with Algeria] and construction of joint ventures."
Algeria has the world's seventh-largest natural gas reserves (4.55 trillion cu m) and is the world's fourth-biggest gas exporter after Russia, Canada and Norway (60 billion cu m per year). Trade between Russia and Algeria amounted to $300 million in January-September 2005.
The Kremlin source added that Algeria needed modernization of 90% of its weapons, and was looking at major purchases for its air force and navy, as well as of small arms.
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.