ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was transferred to France for medical tests on Saturday night after suffering a minor stroke that Algeria’s official news agency said had caused no permanent damage.
Bouteflika, who has ruled over the North African oil and gas producer for more than a decade, had a “transient ischemic attack” or mini-stroke on Saturday.
The APS news agency quoted his doctor Rachid Bougherbal as saying the attack was brief and its impact would not be permanent: “His state of health is progressing well and has suffered no irreversible damage.”
The 76-year-old is part of an older generation of leaders who have dominated politics in a former French colony that supplies a fifth of Europe’s natural gas imports and cooperates with the West in combating Islamist militancy.
He has rarely appeared in public in recent months, prompting speculation about his health.
The president was moved to Paris Val-de-Grace military hospital France on the recommendation of his doctors. France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declined to comment but wished Bouteflika, “a friend of France”, to get well soon.
Bouteflika is part of an elite that has controlled Algeria since it won independence in a 1954-62 war.
In the early 1990s, the military-backed politicians overturned an election which Islamists were poised to win and then fought a conflict with them in which about 200,000 people were killed.
They also saw off the challenge of Arab Spring protests two years ago, with Bouteflika’s government defusing unrest through pay rises and free loans for young people.
Bouteflika has served three terms as president of the OPEC member and is thought unlikely to seek a fourth at an election due in 2014.
U.S. diplomatic cables leaked in 2011 said Bouteflika had been suffering from cancer but it was in remission.
More than 70 percent of Algerians are under 30. About 21 percent of young people are unemployed, the International Monetary Fund says, and many are impatient with the older generation ruling a country where jobs, wages and housing are urgent concerns.
A transient ischemic attack is a temporary blockage in a blood vessel to the brain. It typically lasts for less than five minutes and “usually causes no permanent injury to the brain”, the American Stroke Association said on its website.
Such incidents are seen as a health warning, as a third of people who experience them go on to have a full stroke within a year, the organization added.
Reporting by Lamine Chikhi, Additional reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and John Irish in Paris; Editing by Peter Graff