/ 21 November 2009

Soccer row drags on as Algeria summons Egypt envoy

Algeria’s foreign minister summoned Egypt’s ambassador on Friday to reject accusations that his government failed to protect Egyptians from violent Algerian soccer fans during a tense World Cup play-off, state media said.

Tension around crucial qualifying matches in Egypt on Saturday and in Sudan on Wednesday boiled over into minor confrontations between fans and a war of words in Egyptian and Algerian media that has strained ties between the two countries.

On Thursday, Egypt’s state-run EGYNews website said Cairo was recalling its ambassador for consultations over violence against Egyptians after Wednesday’s match.

Algeria’s Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci told Egypt’s envoy of his government’s ”incomprehension and great preoccupation” over the ”escalation of the media campaign” in Egypt, official Algerian news agency APS said.

”Mr Medelci expressed hope that an instant end will be put to this campaign which does not serve the interests of the two countries and the two peoples,” APS cited the ministry as saying.

It said Algeria had taken all necessary measures to calm the violence by fans and had reinforced security to protect Egyptian citizens and their property in Algeria.

Egypt won Saturday’s game 2-0 in Cairo to leave the two teams level at the top of their qualifying group, but Algeria won the Khartoum play-off to secure a place in South Africa next year, the country’s first appearance at the finals since 1986.

Egypt complained before the Sudan play-off when Algerian fans trashed the Algiers headquarters of Egypt-based Orascom Telecom’s mobile subsidiary. Algerian tax authorities then hit the unit with a $597-million bill for outstanding taxes.

Before that, Egyptian fans pelted the Algerian team’s bus with stones, injuring players, and some fans were hurt in scuffles on the day of the Cairo qualifier.

Demonstrators gathered for a second day near the Algerian embassy in Cairo on Friday to protest against what they said was violence against Egyptians. – Reuters