On coming off his plane on Saturday, a smiling and alert-looking Bouteflika was greeted by two girls in traditional costume, before it was the turn of government members and military and civilian personnel in the north African country.

 

He took the red carpet on the airport tarmac at a brisk pace as the national anthem was played and gave the Algerian flag a long kiss before joining the cortege in which he was to be driven to the al-Muradia presidential palace overlooking the Mediterranean capital.

 

From the early hours, Algerians from around the country had been gathering at the airport and along the highway into town to greet their leader, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.