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ALGERIA -Profile - Youcef Yousfi.

Appointed on Dec. 23, 1999 as Foreign Minister, Yousfi is at the peak of his career. He replaced Ahmad Attaf. A respected technocrat, he was previously the energy and mines Minister, a post he held since June 25, 1997. He worked his way up within Sonatrach and has a comprehensive understanding of both the Algerian energy sector as well as its oil diplomacy. He is also politically well connected, having been close to former president Liamine Zeroual.

Yousfi is a member of the National Democratic Rally (RND). Until June 25, 1997, Yousfi used to be head of the Zeroual's Presidential Office. Prior to that he headed Sonatrach. As minister of energy and mines, Yousfi replaced Amar Makhloufi who had been in this post since April 1994 and who had been at the forefront of changes in the Algerian hydrocarbon sector. (Makhloufi had replaced Ahmed Benbitour, who became finance minister and held that post until September 1996).

Yousfi built up his career in Sonatrach, becoming its vice president under CEO Khellef in the early 1980s and subsequently its president. Then he moved on to head one of the country's financial institutions. In more recent years he acted as advisor to Qatar's Minister of Energy and Industry, Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Attiyah. In 1996 Yousfi was brought back to Algeria to become head of then president Zeroual's office and, later, a member of RND which Zeroual had helped found.

At the presidential office Yousfi became Zeroual's top advisor on energy matters and on OPEC affairs. With fellow energy experts, he allied with Zeroual in early 1997 behind the creation of the National Council of Energy (CNE) under the president's chairmanship and became a key member of CNE. In June 1997 Zeroual successfully negotiated a national coalition government with the former ruling party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), and the moderate Islamic Movement for a Peaceful Society (MPS) of Shaikh Mahfoud Nahnah. Yousfi was given the key energy and mines portfolio, under then premier Ahmed Ouyahia.

Yousfi effected important changes in Sonatrach in July 1997 as he made Abdelmajid Attar its president to replace Nazim Zouioueche. Zouioueche was not on good terms with Yousfi and several Sonatrach executives. Attar was close to the minister and, a very pleasant man, was judged more effective in speeding up the restructuring of Sonatrach (see his profile). Ouyahia resigned in December 1998 and was replaced as prime minister by Ismail Hamdani, who retained Yousfi as energy and mines minister in the new government formed on Dec. 19, 1998.

In the past, Yousfi has been regarded as being against the idea of privatising Sonatrach. But as soon as he became energy minister, he stressed that state control did not mean Sonatrach could be inefficient or function without accountability to the government. He said the private sector should become involved in joint ventures with Sonatrach subsidiaries in the upstream and downstream branches of the hydrocarbon industry. Yousfi's and Attar's efforts at reorganisation made Sonatrach a less centralised and more efficient entity with greater accountability.

Yousfi is a strong advocate of Sonatrach's opening to foreign oil companies in the upstream and downstream sectors. He used his wide contacts among foreign companies in 1998 to help in Sonatrach's road-show presentations in the US, Europe and other parts of the world. In May 1997, he led a big Algerian delegation to Australia, where he discussed BHP's radical compact LNG technology.
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Title Annotation:Foreign Minister
Publication:APS Diplomat Operations in Oil Diplomacy
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:6ALGE
Date:Feb 28, 2000
Previous Article:ALGERIA -Profile - Ahmed Benbitour.
Next Article:ALGERIA -Profile - Chakib Khalil.

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