ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has left for France for a brief routine medical check up, the presidency said in a statement on APS state news agency on Thursday.
Bouteflika, 78, who suffered a stroke in 2013, has been seen mostly in brief television images or in photographs on state media since winning a fourth term in office last year. He has visited France on occasion for checkups since his illness.
Bouteflika won re-election in 2014 promising stability and a continuation of security policies in a region where many neighbours are struggling with Islamist militant attacks.
Under Bouteflika, the OPEC producer has become a partner in Washington’s campaign against Islamist militants in the Maghreb and also major supplier of gas for Europe since emerging from its own 1990s war with Islamist fighters.
“The president of the republic left the country today...for a brief and private visit during which he will undergo routine medical checks,” the statement said without giving details.
A veteran of Algeria’s war of independence against France, Bouteflika fell ill in early 2013, forcing him to be rushed to a French hospital where he stayed for several months.
Question marks over Bouteflika’s health have left his opponents asking what happens next, who replaces him if he cannot govern for his entire term and how that affects political and economic reforms in the vast North African country.
With world oil prices down sharply, Algeria is also passing through a sensitive moment since the energy revenues that make up more that half its budget have been slashed by 50 percent this year, forcing spending cuts.
Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Ralph Boulton