Britain's Cameron in Algiers after desert bloodbath

British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Algeria on Wednesday in the wake of this month's hostage crisis at a gas plant deep in the Sahara in which several Britons were killed.

The first visit by a British premier since Algeria won independence from France in 1962 comes less than two weeks after 37 foreign hostages were killed when Islamists stormed the In Amenas facility and in the attack's aftermath.

An Algiers airport official said Cameron was greeted by his counterpart, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal. He was also due to meet President Abdelaziz Bouteflika later on the visit ending on Thursday.

The British premier's spokeswoman said before his departure that Cameron would seek a partnership with Algeria on tackling extremism, reflecting growing concern in London about unrest in North Africa, and in Mali.

Cameron is accompanied by his national security adviser and a trade envoy, Downing Street said, while British reports said the head of Britain's foreign intelligence service MI6 was also on the trip.

At his meetings with Sellal and Bouteflika, they would "talk about how they can strengthen bilateral relations," Cameron's spokeswoman said.

"The talks are expected to focus on strengthening our security cooperation and seeing how we can work in partnership with the Algerians to deliver a tough, patient and intelligent response to tackle the terrorist threat," she added.

A statement from the Algerian presidency called the visit a chance "to renew political dialogue" with Britain.

It would enable "an exchange of views and analysis between President Bouteflika and his guest on a number of questions of common interest and on topics relating to current regional and international events," it added.

Six Britons are believed to have been among 37 foreign hostages killed when gunmen earlier this month stormed the gas plant and the Algerian army launched a military assault in response.

One Algerian and 29 gunmen were also killed.

Britain expressed concern after the hostage crisis erupted that London had not been consulted before the Algerian authorities launched their military operation, but Cameron's spokeswoman played down any discord.

"We were clear at the time we were disappointed not to be told about the initial rescue but the prime minister is looking forward to this trip to see how we can strengthen ties with Algeria," she said.

The visit was "part of efforts to lead a coordinated international response to the evolving threat from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which is operating from parts of the Sahel region," she said.

"We want to stand side-by-side with countries in the region working together to overcome the threat."

Britain on Tuesday said it would deploy more than 300 military personnel in a non-combat role to help the French-led military mission against Islamist rebels in Algeria's southern neighbour Mali.

Cameron is in Algeria en route to Liberia, where he will co-chair an international development conference on Friday.