The United States and some Western European countries have criticized the way the last presidential election was conducted, but they have refrained from criticizing Algeria's human rights practices. This tolerance has always been predicated on there being at least a semblance of a democratic process in place. The last election failed to offer such semblance.
At the time when Bouteflika was foreign minister, Algeria played a central role in anticolonialism, the nonaligned movement, the call for a restructuring of the international system, and the establishment of a new international economic order to help poor countries develop and gain economic independence. It has also fulfilled an important role within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Algeria has been a staunch supporter of the Palestinian struggle for statehood and has, since 1975, given moral and material support to the Western Sahara liberation movement (POLISARIO) in its struggle against Morocco's annexation of former Spanish Sahara. Under Bouteflika's leadership, Algeria remained committed to these issues and principles, but began to be more outspoken in the international arena. In a September 2002 address before the General Assembly of the United Nations, Bouteflika described Iraq's decision to allow the return of weapons inspectors as "courageous" and urged the nations of the world to lift sanctions against Iraq in response. During later discussions in the General Assembly, Bouteflika emphasized that the creation of a Palestinian state was critical to ending international terrorism.
Bouteflika has begun to try to reestablish Algeria's influential role in world affairs in general, and among the Third World in particular, by attending mediation efforts in various trouble spots. However, he has been criticized for not focusing more attention on the needs of his own people, which are at a crisis point due to years of civil conflict and deprivation.
In July 2001, Bouteflika traveled to the United States to meet with President George W. Bush. He sought support for an increase in U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in the economy in areas other than the petrochemical industry. After the terrorist events of 11 September 2001, Bouteflika was one of the first leaders of a Muslim nation to offer assistance to the United States. In October 2002, Bouteflika participated in the ninth summit of the African Union held in Beirut, Lebanon, where, at Bouteflika's urging, the African Union adopted a plan to implement border controls and information exchange to curb international terrorism.