ALGIERS (AFP) – The 14-nation terror watchlist drawn up by the United States in the wake of the failed Christmas Day airliner bombing is not aimed at “blacklisting one country or another”, a US diplomat said on Sunday.
Janet Sanderson, the US State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for the Gulf, said the policy was “evolving” and was intended to protect air travellers.
Travellers flying directly or indirectly to the United States from countries on the list are subject to enhanced security screening.
The list includes Algeria, Iran, Nigeria, Syria and Yemen, and a number of countries have strongly protested against their inclusion.
“Our efforts to protect not only our citizens but every traveller are not aimed at any one country … nor are they aimed at blacklisting or pointing out one country or another,” Sanderson said after talks with Algeria’s junior minister for North African affairs Abdelkader Messahel.
Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci summoned the US ambassador in Algiers, David D Pearce, earlier this month to protest at the “unfortunate, unjustified and discriminatory” decision to include Algeria in the list.
Sanderson, who was US ambassador to Algeria for a number of years, said Washington was “committed to continuing to consult with (the Algerian) government on this issue”.
“This policy is evolving. We do believe that it will affect and impact every country, not just travellers from one country or another but at the end of the day our aim is to make air travel safer for everyone,” she said.
“This is an evolutionary process. These efforts that we are making together are always changing in order to meet a changing threat. That problem is always under review.”
Messahel reiterated that Algeria was surprised to find itself on the risk list announced by Washington on January 3, Algeria’s state news agency APS reported.
On January 13 Medelci — who is due to meet Sanderson on Monday — said Algeria expected to be removed from the list, and Messahel said Sunday Algiers had been given assurances by Washington.
The watchlist is part of security measures drawn up US President Barack Obama’s administration following a young Nigerian’s botched Christmas Day attempt to blow up a US airliner over Detroit.
There are currently no direct flights between Algeria and the United States, and most Algerians transit through Paris.