(photo credit: AP [file])
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday began a two-day visit to Algiers aimed at boosting ties amid international tensions over Iran's nuclear program.
Algerian media criticized the visit, Ahmadinejad's first to this North African country, saying it put Algeria in an awkward diplomatic position. Algeria, an ally in the US-led war on terrorism, signed a deal on nuclear energy cooperation with the United States in June.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika met Ahmadinejad at the Algiers airport, and the two were to hold talks later Monday. The Iranian president was also scheduled to meet Algerian business leaders before leaving Tuesday.
The visit follows a trip in June by Iranian Foreign Minister Mannouchehr Mottaki, which Algeria's state APS news agency said was aimed at securing Algerian support in the "Iranian nuclear crisis."
Ahmadinejad abruptly canceled a planned stopover in Algeria in January. The cancellation came after Ahmadinejad had suggested to Algeria's energy minister that Iran could share its nuclear expertise with Algeria, an overture that caused concern in Algiers.
A delegation from the UN's nuclear watchdog arrived in Tehran on Monday in an effort to investigate Western allegations that Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to produce atomic weapons - fears that have led to international sanctions. Iran denies the allegations, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.