After battling virus, Algerian leader suddenly reappears

Abdelmadjid Tebboune

FILE – In this Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019 file photo, Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune delivers a speech during an inauguration ceremony in the presidential palace, in Algiers, Algeria. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune marks a year in office Saturday but he is nowhere in sight since his evacuation to Germany more than six weeks ago for treatment of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Toufik Doudou, FILE)

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Still recovering from COVID-19, Algeria’s president suddenly reappeared Sunday after nearly two months out of the public eye, saying in a video message that it may still be several more weeks before he is fit enough to return to his North African country.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune fell ill and then left for treatment in Germany in late October. Before his 4-minute, 54-second video on Sunday, his last public appearance had been in mid-October, meeting France’s foreign minister when he visited the former French colony.

The 75-year-old Tebboune spoke clearly in the video and did not appear short of breath even after long phrases. He has, however, clearly lost weight.

“I will fully recover my physical strength in perhaps one, two or three weeks,” he said. “I hope to be back among you soon.”

He seemed to speak off-the-cuff, without notes. He said he had been closely following the country’s affairs.

Saturday marked the anniversary of his first year in office.

The long absence of the head of state, who also serves Algeria’s defense chief, recalled the lengthy disappearances from public view of his predecessor, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, for treatment in France of a stroke in 2013 and later in Switzerland for numerous medical check-ups, with lots of speculation and little information on his whereabouts or health.

Bouteflika rarely appeared in public but kept ruling. He was forced to abandon his bid for a fifth term last year before being pushed from office under pressure from street protests and the powerful army.

Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad has been in charge during Tebboune’s absence as the country struggles with an economy made worse by the coronavirus and other issues.

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