UPDATE 2-Algeria's Bouteflika convalescing in France

Tue May 21, 2013 3:38pm EDT

* Speculation about health since rushed to hospital in Paris

* France says Bouteflika still in France (Adds statement by French army's medical wing)

By Myra MacDonald

ALGIERS, May 21 (Reuters) - Algeria's prime minister, reacting to reports that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seriously ill, said the 76-year-old was recovering in France but had been ordered by his doctors to rest.

Since he was rushed to hospital in Paris on April 27 with what was officially described as a minor stroke, Bouteflika has been neither heard nor seen in public, raising widespread speculation about his state of health.

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said that after being treated at the Val-de-Grace military hospital in Paris, Bouteflika was convalescing in France and continued to follow the affairs of state on a daily basis.

"The president, whose survival has never been questioned and whose health is improving every day, has been required by his doctors to take complete rest in order to make a full recovery," the Algerian Press Service quoted Sellal as saying.

The French foreign ministry said he was still in France, while the French army's medical wing said in a statement that Bouteflika had left Val-de-Grace hospital on Tuesday to "continue his convalescence" in another institution.

It gave no details, but French media reported that he had been transferred to the Institution Nationale des Invalides, a specialised home and hospital for war veterans.

France's Le Point magazine said last week that Bouteflika, who was treated for cancer in 2005, was in very poor health, with some of his vital functions damaged.

Algerian newspaper editor Hichem Aboud said he was in a deep coma and had already been brought back to Algeria.

Sellal said that false reports by some foreign media on Bouteflika threatened Algeria's development and security.

"The illness of President Bouteflika will soon be no more than a bad memory," he said.

Algeria is due to hold a presidential election in April 2014 and were Bouteflika to disappear from the political scene before that, authorities would have to scramble to find an alternative candidate and the constitutional means of running the country until then.

Algeria has been run with Soviet-style secrecy for decades by an elite drawn largely from men who fought in the war of independence against France from 1954 to 1962.

Bouteflika, who first became president in 1999, is among the last of that generation, who retain a tradition of secrecy dating back to their fear of betrayal during their time as insurgents. (Additional reporting by Patrick Vignal in Paris; Editing by Michael Roddy)