S Korea's Roh in Algeria for trade, energy talks

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ALGIERS, March 11 (Reuters) South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun today arrived in Algeria at the start of a three-day visit to discuss trade and energy cooperation between the North African OPEC-member and the world's seventh-largest oil consumer.

Roh's visit was the last stopover in a three-country tour of Africa that started in Egypt and Nigeria, part of Seoul's efforts to boost its influence in the West Asia and secure energy supplies for its fast-growing economy.

It is the first trip to Algiers by a South Korean head of state.

In an interview with Algerian official news agency APS ahead of the visit, Roh said strengthening economic links and energy cooperation would be top priorities in his talks with Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Algeria is tapping foreign investment and expertise as part of a five-year programme worth 80 billion dollars to boost growth and modernise its infrastructure.

''I hope exchanges and cooperation in energy, infrastructure and information technologies will see further development,'' he said, adding that a memorandum of understanding on energy would also be signed.

Trade exchanges between the two countries totalled 465.5 million dollars last year against 595 million dollars in 2004, according to Algerian customs data.

Algeria imports electronic and industrial products and vehicles from South Korea and sells it energy and chemical products.

REUTERS KD RK2038

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