29 January 2013
Last updated at 21:10 ET
David Cameron will meet his Algerian counterpart
David Cameron is to visit Algeria later in the wake of the hostage crisis that left up to six Britons dead.
The UK prime minister will hold talks with his counterpart and the president.
Mr Cameron will stress the strategic importance of Algeria in what he has called “the generational struggle” against al-Qaeda in North Africa.
The UK is to send 330 military personnel to Algeria’s neighbour Mali and West Africa to support French forces battling Islamist militants.
The deployment will include as many as 40 military advisers in Mali and 200 British soldiers in neighbouring African countries, to help train the Malian army.
French-led forces are continuing their offensive against militants who seized northern Mali last year.
Mr Cameron will be the first UK prime minister to visit Algeria since its independence in 1962. He will also be attending an international development conference in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.
He is expected to hold talks with Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, with discussions likely to focus on the hostage crisis and the military campaign in Mali.
BBC political editor Nick Robinson says Mr Cameron’s aides are stressing that the troops being sent to the region are to be used for training, logistics and intelligence, and not combat. They talk of a temporary operation.
But this trip is bound to heighten the demands on the prime minister to say not simply what he is not planning in North Africa, but to explain more about what exactly he is, our correspondent adds.
Some 37 foreigners and at least 10 Algerians died after militants seized workers at Algeria’s In Amenas gas plant earlier this month.
The Foreign Office has confirmed that four Britons and one UK resident died, while a further two British nationals are feared dead.
The Algerian government took the controversial decision to storm the site in the Sahara desert, which is jointly operated by BP.
Algerian officials said the hostage-takers had been from six different nationalities and belonged to a new Islamist group that recently broke away from al-Qaeda.
During the siege, one statement purporting to be from the captors called for an end to the French military intervention in Mali.
The BBC’s Richard Galpin, in Algiers, said radical groups, some with links to al-Qaeda, had grown in strength in the region in recent years.
He said Mr Cameron’s visit may be partly an attempt to mend any damage to relations after the prime minister expressed disappointment that he had had no advance warning about the Algerian hostage rescue operation.
Mr Cameron has said the hostage crisis highlights the need for a “strong security response” matched by an “intelligent political response”.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Mr Cameron said: “I believe we are in the midst of a long struggle against murderous terrorists and a poisonous ideology that supports them.
“Just as we’ve successfully put pressure on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so al-Qaeda franchises have been growing for years in Yemen, in Somalia and across parts of North Africa, places that have suffered hideously through hostage taking, terrorism and crime.”