Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is also defence minister and supreme chief of the armed forces, appointed General Lyachi Grid as chief of the Republican Guard and General Malek Necib as commander of the navy forces.

The Republican Guard is the army elite force in charge of sensitive security-related missions, such as protecting the president and main government offices.

"The change is part of a move aimed at making the military more professional and more open for cooperation with foreign forces," said a local expert, who did not want to be named.

Military cooperation

Algerian forces, particularly the navy, have carried out several military exercises with NATO units and forces from some European countries over the past few years.

The appointments followed a series of changes at the military leadership which had begun when the army chief of staff Mohamed Lamari resigned in August 2004, three months after Bouteflika won a second five-year term.

Analysts say the military has played a role in influencing domestic policy since the country's independence from France in 1962 and believe Bouteflika has been striving to trim its political influence.