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French Version

Bouteflika 'likely' has cancer

Algerian President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika, who has been hospitalized in Paris for over a fortnight, "likely" has stomach cancer, a leading French doctor said Thursday based on a description of his symptoms.

But Prime Minister Ahmad Ouyehya denied "insane rumors put about by certain foreign sources" concerning the 68-year-old president's health. He did not elaborate on the rumors or their origin but said Bouteflika's health was improving nearly, and that he would be home in days.

Bernard Debre, head of the urology department at Paris's Cochin hospital, said of Bouteflika's condition: "It is very hard to make a diagnosis. If it is true that he first suffered gastrointestinal blood loss, then it is likely to be stomach cancer."

Speaking to France Inter radio, he added: "I say likely, because I cannot see what else it could be." The doctor did not personally examine Bouteflika.

Ouyehya has received daily reports from Bouteflika's doctors at the Val de Grace military hospital in Paris, where the president was flown on

November 26, the official APS news agency said.

"President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika's release from hospital will come in a few days," he told APS, adding that the president's convalescence was going "perfectly."

Foreign Minister Mohammad Bedjaoui earlier made similar comments as rumors persisted in Algiers that Bouteflika's condition might be worse than publicly acknowledged.

"Things are going well. He is in good health. Believe us, there is no problem," Bedjaoui told state radio at Algiers airport.

The influential daily Al-Watan accused the authorities of failing to keep the public fully informed, complaining that only one medical bulletin had been issued.

"This law of silence which our leaders have imposed recalls ... the behavior of totalitarian and dictatorial systems," the paper said in its online edition.

Ouyehya said the single medical bulletin issued 10 days ago on the successful surgery had contained all the information needed.

-----------------------------------

Algerian singer: Bouteflika is 'really well'

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been hospitalized in Paris for almost three weeks, is in good form, according to an Algerian singer who said he had visited him in hospital.

"He was really well, he was smiling, as usual, he bore no visible marks of illness," said Cheb Mami, a popular Rai singer and high-profile supporter of the 68-year-old president, whose illness had sparked a storm of speculation.

Mami told AFP that he had spent around 10 minutes alone with Bouteflika on Thursday afternoon at the Paris military hospital where he has been since November 26 and that the president was walking freely around his hospital room.

"He opened the door and he walked over to his armchair in a little living room," said Mami. "I told him I was very worried, that I had heard the rumors."

"He replied, 'rumors are only rumors'," said the singer.

A lack of official information about the president's health since he was hospitalized on November 26, has fuelled concerns that his condition may be more serious than publicly admitted.

Mami's account of Bouteflika's state of health was the first since a December 5 medical bulletin, which said he had undergone stomach surgery for a bleeding ulcer.

Algiers has dismissed as "crazy rumors" the press speculation about Bouteflika's illness and says he is making a normal recovery in hospital.

But Algerian groups in France - supporters and critics of Bouteflika alike - are demanding greater transparency about his condition.

"The Algerian people want the truth about the president. We want health bulletins," Djoudi Tayyeb, who led Bouteflika's support committee in France during both the last elections, said on Friday.

Tayyeb has called for a protest demonstration outside the Val de Grace military hospital in Paris on Saturday.

"If he is dead, we need to be told. Otherwise, let them show his picture on television. For him to move his head, to smile, that is all we want," agreed Mustafa Ramdani, a former Algerian Embassy official and Bouteflika supporter.

Ramdani said he believed that the Algerian leader may have died in hospital, a view shared by Saada Zaoui, who campaigned for Bouteflika's rival Ali Benflis in the last election.

Beirut,12 20 2005
Redaction
The Daily Star
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