An article yesterday regarding the role played by Algerian national hero Abdel Qadr in protecting Americans caught up in civil strife in Syria gave the wrong date. The correct date is 1860.
Algerian President Chadli Bendjedid received a warm welcome at the White House yesterday at the start of the first state visit by any leader of Algeria since it became independent 23 years ago. The visit marked the start of a new era in relations with the United States.
At an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn, President Reagan hailed the new "positive direction" in U.S.-Algerian relations. He said the United States will seek to expand cooperation between the two governments through a joint economic commission and a cultural exchange agreement.
Reagan also expressed "the collective gratitude" of the U.S. government and people for Algeria's role in obtaining the release of the Americans held hostage in Tehran five years ago, noting that an earlier Algerian leader, Abdel Qadr, had played a similar role in protecting Americans caught up in internal strife in Syria in 1960.
Bendjedid said he had come to Washington with "a message of friendship and respect" from the Algerian people to the American people and that he looks forward to the development of a "dynamic cooperation" between the two nations.
A senior administration official said later the two presidents discussed at length the Middle East peace process and the role of Palestinians in the process.
"We and the Algerians both suspected this was going to be very high on our agenda," the official said.
The official said Reagan had told the Algerian leader that "the Palestinian question" is "an important one that has to be addressed," and that the United States agrees the Palestinians should be involved in any new negotiations.
Bendjedid reportedly said he would welcome "any negotiation" helping to bring about peace in the Middle East, but did not indicate whether he supports Reagan's September 1982 peace proposals or any other peace plan as an alternative.
The two leaders also discussed briefly the possibility of Algeria's purchasing U.S. arms, the official said.
This follows Reagan's determination April 10 that the North African country is now regarded as "friendly" to the United States and eligible to buy arms under the foreign military sales program.
Bendjedid reportedly told Reagan that Algeria has no aggressive intentions toward neighboring countries and that, if it decides to purchase U.S. arms, they would be used only for defensive purposes.
"We noted we will be glad to consider any requests and will consider them on a case-by-case basis," the official said. "No specific items were mentioned."
The Reagan administration, apparently signaling the importance it attaches to Bendjedid's visit, has arranged a full schedule of meetings for him with several ranking government officials.
In addition to a dinner and luncheon hosted for him yesterday by Reagan and Secretary of State George P. Shultz and a luncheon by Vice President Bush on Friday, he is to meet with Shultz, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige, Energy Secretary John S. Herrington and Agriculture Secretary John R. Block.
Bendjedid, who is to depart Friday for a visit to California, is scheduled to return to Algeria on Monday.