Foreign Minister Mohammed Benyahia, who has directed the Algerian mediation efforts in the hostage negotiations between the United States and Iran, is a highly experienced diplomat who brought efficency and discretion to the talks.
On President Benjedid Chadli's orders, Benyahia put the most talented Algerian diplomats to work on the complex and often frustrating task of providing assistance to the two sides. The effort is expected to earn great international prestige for the North African nation's younger generation of diplomats who, in the words of a senior Western diplomat, proved worthy of their elders who negotiated the 1962 Evian Peace accords ending Algeria's seven-year war of independence against France.
A small, but high-powered group of diplomats providing key assistance to Benyahia were Algeria's ambassador to Iran Abdel Karim Gheraieb and his colleague in Washington kRedha Malek; Seghir Mostefai, head of Algeria's Central Bank, and Mohammed Ben Hocine, a career diplomat who is deputy director for international economic and financial affairs at the Foreign Ministry.
In November the Algerians began their tedious efforts at negotiations when they transmitted to Washington the full detail of Iran's conditions for the release of the hostages.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher, the chief negotiator for the United States in the talks, has spared no opportunity to praise Algerian authorities for their help. Even Iran, less effusive, often underscored Algeria's pivotal role.
It was Benyahia, in his role as head of the Foreign Ministry, who oversaw the effort. Educated as a lawyer, he began his diplomatic career before Algeria gained independence and proved to be vital to the postrevolution government.
In 1960, the young revolutionary became chief of staff to Ferhat Abbas, then president of Algeria's provisional revolutionary government and was a member of the front's negotiating team in independence talks with the French.
In 1962, one year after Algerian independence, Benyahia was sent to the Soviet Union as the new government's ambassador to Moscow. He was named ambassador to Britian in 1965. He never made it to London, however, because Algeria broke diplomatic relations with Britain when Rhodesia unilaterally declared itself independent.
He later served as a diplomatic counsellor, information minister and minister of finance before being named Foreign Minister in 1979.