ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was transferred to France for medical tests on Saturday night after suffering a minor stroke, Algeria’s official news agency said.
Bouteflika, who has ruled over the North African oil and gas producer for more than a decade, had an “transient ischemic attack” or mini-stroke on Saturday but his condition was not serious, the APS agency said, quoting the prime minister.
The 76-year-old is part of an older generation of leaders who have dominated politics in a country that supplies a fifth of Europe’s 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 felt unwell and he has been hospitalized but his condition is not serious at all,” Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal was quoted as saying by APS.
The president was then moved to France, on the recommendation of his doctors.
Bouteflika and other members of Algeria’s elite have controlled Algeria since it won independence from France 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 gerontocracy 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.
The attacks should be seen as a 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; Editing by Andrew Heavens