Algeria PM announces Bouteflika's return

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on Tuesday confirmed that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was returning home from France where he had been in hospital for almost three months.

Sellal made the remarks in the restive region of Tizi Ouzou east of Algiers, after a source in Paris announced that Bouteflika's plane took off for Algiers.

"The president is coming home," Sellal said at a citizens meeting where he did not take any questions from journalists.

A source at Le Bourget airport near Paris said that Bouteflika had left the French capital on board the Algerian presidential jet on his way back home.

The plane took off at 1130 GMT, and the 76-year-old leader was in a wheelchair, said the source.

The president's health has been a source of huge concern in the North African country, where little has been divulged about his condition since he flew to Paris in April after suffering a mini-stroke.

It also sparked intense media speculation about the implications for Algeria's government due to Bouteflika's central constitutional role in running the country.

Reports also questioned the impact on next year's presidential elections, now that it appears extremely unlikely Bouteflika will seek a fourth term.

Calls have grown in the press for the application of Article 88 of the constitution, which provides for the transfer of power if the head of state falls seriously ill.

Bouteflika rose to power in 1999. He was re-elected in 2004 and again in 2009, after changes to the constitution allowed him to run for more than two terms.