Bouteflika, citing flu, scraps talks with Saudi crown prince

December 3, 2018
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 1st left, walks down the plane steps upon his arrival at Algiers international airport, Algeria, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. Algeria's presidency says Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will start a two-day visit to Algeria Sunday with a focus on economic ties between the two countries. (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s planned meeting with Abdelaziz Bouteflika was canceled on Monday because the Algerian president is sick.

Bouteflika’s office said in a statement that the ailing 81-year-old was confined to bed with an “acute flu” as the Saudi prince arrived for his two-day trip to Algeria.

The crown prince attended the Group of 20 summit and has been visiting friendly Arab nations over the past week on his first international tour since Saudi agents killed Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2.

U.S. intelligence assessments and experts have said the crown prince, who controls all levers of power in Saudi Arabia, likely ordered or at least knew about the killing. Saudi authorities say those who killed Khashoggi exceeded their authority, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five people allegedly involved in the killing.

The crown prince was met with protests in Tunisia, but has been warmly received by government officials in the region.

Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia greeted the prince on the tarmac late Sunday and held talks with him on Monday in Bouteflika’s absence. The prime minister’s office said the meeting was aimed at “consolidating relations between the two countries” and the “enlargement of their economic partnership.”

Algerian Energy Minister Mustapha Guitouni said the prince “is welcome in his second country.”