The UN special envoy for the Sahel said on Thursday every effort would be made to avoid military intervention in neighbouring Mali, as the world body pushes for a resolution to the crisis there.
Romano Prodi, an Italian former premier and ex-president of the European Commission, had a "detailed" discussion on Mali with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the APS news agency said.
"If there must be military intervention there, it will be as a last resort," APS quoted Prodi as saying after the meeting.
Their talks came as West African heads of state prepared to meet on Sunday in Abuja to adopt a plan for their troops to recapture northern Mali from radical Islamists, the grouping said in a statement on Thursday.
"We still have the chance to work for peace," Prodi was quoted as saying, "in the struggle against terrorism to preserve the national unity of Mali."
Algeria, with its superior military capabilities and its 1,400-kilometre (875-mile) border with Mali, is seen as key to any military operation, but it has been hesitant to get involved, preferring a negotiated solution instead.
Facing a potentially violent ouster, Ansar Dine, the main Islamist group in Mali which has links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has called for dialogue and a halt to hostilities.
Negotiations with Ansar Dine, which has occupied key cities such as Timbuktu for seven months, are under way in Burkina Faso and have been joined by a delegation fresh from talks in the Algerian capital.
Last month, the UN Security Council approved a resolution urging the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to speed up preparations for a military intervention to help recapture northern Mali.
It gave ECOWAS until November 26 to clarify its plans.© ANP/AFP