On the basis of a transcript, Algerian President Chadli Bendjedid was reported Sunday to have said in an interview that if Libya allowed foreign bases to be established on its territory, then "our country will require the presence of foreign bases." A review of the tape of the interview showed that he said "other countries will require the presence of foreign bases." (Published 2/9/88)

ALGIERS, FEB. 6 -- Algerian President Chadli Bendjedid is pressing his campaign to bring Col. Moammar Gadhafi into a regional political accord with his North African neighbors despite U.S. efforts to keep the unpredictable Libyan leader in isolation.

The Algerian president asserts that the U.S. pressure is driving Gadhafi into "an alliance with the devil" that threatens stability in North Africa.

Bendjedid welcomed Gadhafi in the eastern coastal city of Annaba today after the Libyan ended a two-day visit to Tunisia. That visit, arranged through Algerian mediation, was Gadhafi's first to Tunisia since 1984.

In an interview here earlier this week, the Algerian president issued an appeal to the United States to drop its opposition to the accelerating Algerian efforts to "neutralize" Libya through a policy of accommodation and political restraints.

"If we isolate it, we leave Libya to have an alliance with the devil," Bendjedid said, warning that U.S. policy could push Gadhafi to agree to the establishment of foreign military bases on his territory.

Bendjedid did not name the foreign power that Gadhafi might invite into Libya to counter U.S. pressure. But the context of his remarks made it clear that he was referring to the Soviet Union, which is the main arms supplier for both Libya and Algeria.

If this were to occur, Bendjedid added, "then our country will {also} require the presence of foreign bases." He again declined to be more specific, but at another point in the interview he spoke intensely about his desire to improve military cooperation with the United States.

The Reagan administration has publicly criticized Algeria's efforts to break the diplomatic quarantine on Gadhafi, whose housing compound was bombed by the United States in April 1986, in retaliation for Gadhafi's support for international terrorism.

In a three-hour conversation with Katharine Graham, chairman of the board of The Washington Post Co., and reporters for The Washington Post and Newsweek on Thursday, the Algerian president also made these points:

He sees "no possibility of ending the war" between Iran and Iraq "in the near future." Prospects for peace are so dim that Algeria has for the time being abandoned the mediating role it sought to play in the conflict.

Algeria wants to buy American weapons, but has balked at doing so thus far in part because of conditions imposed on proposed sales. Budgetary restraints caused by falling oil prices have also delayed such purchases.

A new Middle East peace probe by the United States "does not seem to have any chance of success" because it seeks bilateral negotiations between Israel and Jordan. Arab states are prepared to be flexible on a final settlement if an international peace conference is called, he added.

He wants to include Morocco in the same regional grouping that he is pushing Libya to join, and to construct a joint gas export pipeline with Morocco if the war in the disputed Western Sahara territory is resolved.

Speaking alternately in French and Arabic, Bendjedid, a 59-year-old former Army colonel who came to power in 1979, laid strong emphasis throughout the interview on the significant improvements that have occurred in U.S.-Algerian relations in recent years.

Bendjedid, who meets infrequently with western journalists, appeared relaxed and confident during the interview at his retreat near Zeralda, west of Algiers. Wearing a gray cardigan, a gray plaid sport shirt open at the throat and gray trousers, the silver-haired leader puffed slowly on a cigar as he fielded questions.

Algeria was long a militant champion of Arab and other Third World causes and a harsh critic of western nations after it won independence in 1962. Under Bendjedid, the country has steadily moderated both its domestic and foreign policies and has become an influential mediator on the world scene.

Bendjedid discussed publicly for the first time his strategy of getting Gadhafi to sign the 1983 friendship treaty that links Algeria, Tunisia and Mauritania as a way of "freezing" Libya's support for destabilization of its neighbors and terrorist operations elsewhere.

"What we are doing will not let Gadhafi go ahead with the practice of terrorism," he asserted. "On the contrary, we are going to impose conditions and these conditions have to be respected. If tomorrow Gadhafi does not respect his commitments, it will be our problem to deal with."

By signing the treaty, Gadhafi effectively will promise "not to interfere, not to export one's experience to any other country, to respect the existing regimes" and frontiers, according to Bendjedid.

"You cannot condemn a people because of its head of state," he continued when pressed about U.S. accusations against Gadhafi. "We see this through the Libyan people, because the {current} leadership will not remain forever. The United States bombed Libya, but Libya is still there."

U.S. officials have been quoted as saying that Gadhafi has reduced his terrorist activities since the 1986 raid on Libya. But they insist Libya originated a shipment of heavy arms intended for terrorists in Northern Ireland that was intercepted last October.

Bendjedid said he had doubts about Gadhafi's involvement in that shipment, but offered no information to contradict the American allegations.

Calling the Libyan leader the enfant terrible of the region, Bendjedid said he now had "an agreement in principle from all the parties" that Libya will join the friendship treaty. He said a date had not been fixed.

Concerned by the conflicts on its borders created by Libyan involvement in Chad, Morocco's annexation of the former Spanish Sahara territory and political uncertainty in Tunisia, Algeria has sought to maneuver the states of the region, which is known in Arabic as the Maghreb, into common economic projects and a loose political union.

Gadhafi, however, attacks the existence of frontiers that separate Arabs into different countries and has been lobbying Bendjedid for a constitutional political union that would be the first step for a larger pan-Arab union.

Until this week, Bendjedid's attitude toward Gadhafi's proposal had been cloaked in ambiguity. But he left no doubt in the interview that he now rejects that approach: "Today unity cannot be expressed this way," he said.

The Soviet Union made no move to help Gadhafi during the U.S. air raid and has kept its distance politically from the erratic Libyan since Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Moscow.

But Bendjedid indicated indirectly that he feared the Soviets will take advantage of Gadhafi's isolation to try to expand their presence in Libya and change the balance of power in the area.

"The United States is far away from the region," he said. "If there are tensions in the area we are the first ones to be affected."

On the Iran-Iraq war, Bendjedid said Algeria would resume mediating efforts if asked, but he doubted that there "are any hopes of seeing the end of the war soon."

Asked about new efforts to help free foreign hostages held by Iranian-controlled groups and other Islamic extremists in Lebanon, he disclosed that Algeria helped France get in touch with kidnapers who released two French hostages in Beirut in November and provided logistical help.

"We only helped the two parties get in touch. Algeria was not willing to enter into the dialogue that led to the freeing of the two hostages," he said.

In a lengthy discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Bendjedid stressed Arab willingness to coexist with Israel, an emphasis that has been largely absent from previous Algerian official statements on the subject. He also voiced a new measure of flexibility about the final shape of a Middle East peace settlement.

"The Palestinians do not think anymore of throwing Jews into the sea," he said. Noting that Arabs would have to agree to respect Israel's rights, he added: "The Palestinians also have a right, to a country where they can gather their citizens, whether a federation, a confederation or something else."

Despite the sharp differences between Algiers and Washington over the Middle East and North Africa that he expressed, Bendjedid adopted a friendly tone in his comments about the United States. He cited recent high-level visits by Algerian officials to Washington and appeared to indicate that Algeria would welcome senior American officials here.

During his precedent-setting official visit to Washington in 1985, Bendjedid obtained a declaration from the White House that cleared the way for U.S. arms sales to Algeria under the Foreign Military Sales Program, which provides foreign governments with credit and concessional interest rates if needed.

But there have been no important sales announced since the visit. Bendjedid said that Algeria was reluctant to ask for U.S. permission each time it would use American military equipment abroad, as is technically required under the program.