Opinion Brief

Will Algeria regret sheltering Gadhafi's family?

Libya's neighbor says it's offering refuge to the despot's wife and children as a humanitarian gesture — but not everyone believes the Gadhafis deserve such courtesy

Tensions are rising between Libya and neighboring Algeria, to which Moammar Gadhafi's wife and three of his children fled, after Libyan rebels angrily demanded the return of the Gadhafis to stand trial in Libya. While rebel leaders called Algeria's decision to shelter the family an "aggressive act," Algerian officials defended their decision on "humanitarian grounds" — Gadhafi's daughter, Aisha, gave birth to a baby girl on Tuesday. Still, in this year of Arab revolt, is Algeria making a mistake by sticking up for one of the region's most despised families?

Yes. This is likely to backfire: So far, Algeria's rulers have dodged the forces of change that toppled their counterparts in neighboring Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt, says Brian Whitaker at Britain's Guardian. But by "continuing to back a loser (in the shape of Gadhafi)," Algeria "has placed itself on the wrong side of history" and further identified itself with the forces of counter-revolution. That will only draw attention to the Algerian regime's "hankering for the past," and hasten its demise."Algeria's regime: Out on a limb that looks set to fall"

Algeria can survive the backlash: Algeria's welcoming of the Gadhafis highlighted the fact that the North African nation still hasn't recognized Libya's Transitional National Council "as the legitimate successor to the Gadhafi-ruled state," says Claire Spencer at The Nigerian Daily. Clearly, there's no love lost between Algeria and the new Libya. But Algeria "may well be the region's exception" — its leaders seem poised to survive, even as neighboring rulers are toppled — and the presence of the Gadhafis isn't likely to change the facts on the ground."Algeria: North Africa's exception?"

Algeria is tweaking the West, not embracing Gadhafi: "Algeria does not intend to be a second Libya," says Robert Fisk at Britain's Telegraph. The nation is "marginally more democratic than it was in the dreadful 1990s," which should help. It also believes — "not without reason" — that the West only put Libya's revolution over the top to secure access to its oil. Algeria is sheltering the Gadhafis to send the West the message that such foreign intervention won't be tolerated in Algeria."Algeria sends the West a message by taking in Gadhafi's brood"

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